The easiest method of controlling Black Grass in winter crops is to drill later, according to Patrick Stevenson.

Speaking at this year’s Teagasc National Crops Forum, the Chairman of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) said that Black Grass has become a major problem for tillage farmers in the UK.

However the UK-based Consultant said something has to give if farmers want to employ this method of weed control.

“You can manage grass weeds under a direct drill system, but the unfortunate thing is people who take up the direct drill system are the ones who couldn’t make the old system work,” he said.

Farmers must also be dedicated to a direct drilling system to ensure it works, and that even the smallest factors like straw collection should be considered to avoid compaction, he said.

Even though this system has worked for the control of Black Grass in winter crops, he said, it should be avoided at all costs for winter barley crops.

Winter barley growers with a Broom problem should wave a white flag and change cropping tactics.

He added that deep ploughing will reduce the Broom issue.

“If you bury the Broom seed deep, 60-70% of it will be gone after one year,” he said.

According to Stevenson, UK farmers thought Oilseed Rape was going to be a good break crop to reduce the impact of the grass weed problem as there are numerous graminicides available to use.

“But when rape is sprayed off and harvested there is a healthy population of grass weed seeds returned to the soil, farmers must get away from the thought that rape is a cleaning crop,” said the UK-based consultant.

Stevenson also said beans are going to be self-limiting as there are rotational and restriction problems with this crop.

But, he also said the crop is also very susceptible to Black Grass due to its open growth habit, which allows Black Grass to survive.

Weed control is also quite limited as the number of products available on the market continues to shrink each year.

Cover crops

According to Stevenson, cover crops will be used more by tillage farmers in the up coming years as they improve the soil structure.

“Cover crops are going to be part of the way forward, they are going to be politically important, they have a role to play but don’t believe all the garbage that is coming with them.”

Stevenson added that farmers should be sensible when they are considering cover crops and should avoid spending €30-40 on a fancy cover crop when a simple mixture of oats and mustard will have the same impact.

“Farmers are not making enough money out of corn to go out and spend massive money on cover crops.”