Controlling black-grass remains a major challenge but a new project involving five farmers over five years aims to tackle the scourge
Five farmers are putting their farms under the spotlight for the next five years in a bid to better understand black-grass and more importantly, how to control it.
Each has chosen a problematic field on their farm for the 5x5 project, and Bayer which is leading the project, with support from Anglia Farmers and NIAB, is performing headcounts, mapping and resistance tests on the farms to aid the black-grass monitoring process. Rob Fitzgerald, Bayer farm business manager, said: “The aim is to pick up effects of different cropping, cultivations, rotations, seasons and herbicide programmes.”
Based in East Anglia, the farms, all sown with wheat in the designated field for the first year of the project, have varying degrees of black-grass infestation.
Northamptonshire-based Keith Thompson has adopted a strict policy towards black-grass control on his family farm, walking crops frequently and knapsack spraying with glyphosate.
“But on land contract farmed for the last decade it is more of a problem,” he says.
Leonard Stamper, who tenant farms 272ha (672 acres) near Huntingdon and owns further 39ha (96 acres), says: “There are just less and less chemicals to treat it; less at our disposal that works. We’ve used all the chemicals available over the years – now there’s only the pre-ems. Nothing post-em seems to work.
“I think that field scale trials are the best way to see what is really going on but in this project we get the added bonus of the in depth information from the mapping and resistance testing.”
Shoot tests done on each of the project fields for black-grass resistance showed that four out of five fields have a common profile for difficult black-grass sites, with both target site resistance to ALS and ACCase group actives and varying degrees of EMR resistance. James Thomas, who farms in Norfolk, had a better profile with only some ACCase target site resistance and low EMR resistance.