Back to Basics – Land Drainage and Blackgrass Control

Controlling Blackgrass is a topic which is dominating much of the farming press at present.  The presence of this highly resilient weed is extremely debilitating to yields. It is proving increasingly difficult to control it through using conventional chemical techniques as new strains of the weed have developed an immunity on some level towards chemical control.

Being Land Drainage specialists, we are routinely observing blackgrass issues when we walk fields at surveying stage as we look at designing new land drainage schemes for our clients.  In recent years, we have noticed that in some cases, blackgrass is literally swamping crops and the damage it is causing is all too visible.
Suffolk - Blackgrass 2Whilst we wholeheartedly agree that there is a place for getting drill timings right, incorporating stale seedbed techniques into management systems and applying herbicides in a calculated and controlled way, we are bemused as to why there is not a stronger message being pushed within the farming media about the importance of getting the basics right with regard to ensuring the land is adequately drained.

What are the facts? 

Blackgrass thrives on heavy land, particularly where drainage is poor. On light land it is a problem on wetter areas. About 80% of seeds germinates in the autumn. Hot, dry summers see strong early autumn-germination; cool wet autumns see increased dormancy and delayed germination.

Consecutive Wet Autumns…

At a time when previous consecutive autumns have seen widespread high rainfall levels across many UK farms, it is perhaps easy to see why blackgrass has had some optimum conditions in which to multiply.  Many of our customers who we are working with are adapting a ‘back to basics’ approach with regard to blackgrass control. Suffolk - Blackgrass 1

We have spent time with several clients recently who are convinced that blackgrass control has been exponentially easier in areas where they have got good land drains in existence as opposed to slower draining parts of their farm.  There is a genuine belief that the renewal and replacement of old land drainage schemes is a critical first step in areas riddled with blackgrass amongst these growers and they in turn are adapting an annual policy of land drainage as a result.  This long term strategy of improving their farms is already showing outstanding results and blackgrass is now no longer a problem on fields which they have recently drained.

Land Drainage & Blackgrass control

Higher yields remain critical in a market where commodity prices are down.  The importance of effective blackgrass control as a tool to ensure these higher yields are achievable seems obvious as farms strive for better returns amidst a difficult market place.  It perhaps also therefore seems obvious why many growers have made this clear basic link about the benefits of land drainage with regard to the effective control of blackgrass.