5 for 5 to beat Black-grass

5 control strategies for 5 years

Click on this link to download the two-page '5 for 5' leaflet produced by Stephen Moss & Tom Allen-Stevens

Why 5 years?

Because this is how long it takes to substantially reduce the black-grass seed burden in the soil, providing new seed production is minimised. The relatively short seed persistence of black-grass (74% annual seed decline in the soil) is its one weakness. 5 for 5 aims to exploit this weakness.

This programme aims to encourage farmers to adopt comprehensive strategies to tackle back-grass by maintaining a planned, integrated approach for at least 5 years.

Can these aspects of your strategy be improved?

1. Stop seeding:

Do you patch spray with glyphosate in the first week of June? That is the ideal in wheat. Do you always hand rogue before mid-June? This is when black-grass seeds start shedding. Are you able to locate patches reliably so the same areas can be sprayed/rogued for several years if necessary?

2. Cultivations:

What are the aims of your post-harvest stubble cultivatons and are you confident these are achieved? Can your standard of ploughing be improved to achieve a be er degree of inversion? This is vital to the success of rotational ploughing and may be easier to achieve before spring crops. Does your cultivation strategy take account of the infestation level in each field?

3. Sowing date:

Are you able and willing to delay sowing winter wheat until mid-October or later? This not only reduces infestations but pre-em herbicides tend to work better too. Can you grow more spring crops? These are more effective than delayed autumn sowing. Are you willing to grow several successive spring crops or put fields down to grass or fallow – possibly even for five years?

4. Competition:

Higher seed rates can be very useful but how high are you willing to go? Are wider rows reducing crop competition and thereby encouraging black-grass?

5. Herbicides:

Are you destroying all weeds effectively prior to sowing the crop? If not, why not? Are you willing to experiment to find the best pre-ems for your own farm? Results from trials on other farms, with different soil types and resistance, may be misleading. When did you last have a resistance test done on your black-grass?

The three 'R's are also an important part of 5 for 5: Record, Review and Revise

  • Record the amount of black-grass, and its location in every individual field, to assess progress.
  • Review progress annually to identify the most successful strategies.
  • Revise the plan, if necessary, but do not expect dramatic improvements within only 1 or 2 years.

In essence, 5 for 5 is all about:

  • refining existing control strategies
  • recognising that beating black-grass requires a multi-year commitment at the individual field level
  • being more proactive and disciplined in tackling black-grass

The 5 FOR 5 leaflet produced by Stephen Moss & Tom Allen-Stevens