HUTCHINSONS~FieldWise(September2017) - Page 1

Lessons from Brampton
demonstrate benefits
in a wet harvest
A wet harvest usually means disastrous rutting and damaged soils
heading into autumn cultivations. However, for many growers this harvest
this is not the case, as practices that they employed two or three years
ago to reduce their black grass populations, have also brought about
improved soil health benefits.
Managing for black grass and
maintaining healthy soils run in
parallel, and the outcome is inevitably
higher yields; through healthy soils,
drainage will be improved, thereby
reducing black grass, soils will store
more water and crops will yield
better, says Dick Neale, Hutchinsons
Technical Manager.
It’s all about a comprehensive
approach using the five principles of
black grass control (see panel right)
developed at the Brampton centre
of black grass excellence. But if only
3 of the 5 are carried out over a five
year period, then the results will not be
nearly as good, he points out.
Learnings from Warboys RTC
One year on from taking on the tenancy
of Red Tile Farm, Warboys, much has
been learnt, and going into the new
season some changes will be made
to cultivations, particularly in relation to
sugar beet, says Simon Wilcox, farmer
and agronomist with Hutchinsons.
“We have found that some soils are
heavier than we first understood them
to be, which was disguised by the
high levels of organic matter.
5x5 approach to
Black grass control
and Healthy Soils
1. Rotation and crop choice:
Spring cropping (especially barley)
offers a wider window for autumn
black grass control. Select competitive
crops and varieties (e.g. hybrid
barley) that can establish well in the
farm conditions and compete with
black grass.
2. Seed rate: higher rates boost crop
competition – up to 550 seeds/m2.
Allow for lower establishment when
sowing late, or if spring cropping
on heavy land.
Dick Neale (left) with Simon Wilcox
In fact some soils have a clay content
as high as 40%.”
“We strip-tilled the sugar beet crop
last year, but have found that the soils
are too stiff to be cultivated just the
once. We really need to create a little
more tilth for the drill to work on the
clay soils, so this year we will look to
strip-till to give us the depth required
but with an additional pass using the
Cousins surface cultivator.”
“We will also be sub-soiling some of the
headland areas, as we have identified
areas of localised compaction that have
come about from loading sugar beet
and potatoes in previous seasons and
unloading during harvest, as I have
used a haulage grain service.”
Continue overleaf >>>
3. Delay drilling: allows more time
for black grass to emerge in
autumn and be controlled before
a crop is sown (e.g. through stale
seedbeds) – around 80% of black
grass emerges from September
to November.
4. Shallow cultivations: restrict
cultivations to the top 50mm of soil
to maintain a “kill zone” where black
grass can be stimulated to emerge
and be controlled. Avoid bringing
seed up from depth by ploughing
or subsoiling.
5. Chemical control: matched to the
population remaining after steps 1-4,
excessive use or need for herbicides
indicates that other management
practices have been inadequate,
or that the levels of black grass are
too high for the chosen cropping.

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