Grass is not always green!

We have been growing Herbage grass seed since the 70’s on our farm. This is a specialist crop that has needed large amounts of farm investment in infrastructure and machinery which now allows us to produce around fifty to seventy five tonnes of grass seed a year.

We currently grow two varieties on a contract with Barenbrug, an international company specialising in grass mixes based in the UK at Rougham near Bury St. Edmunds. The two varieties this year are BarGold and BarOlympic: they’re fine leafed perennial ryegrasses used for the amenity markets such as golf greens, football pitches, lawns and turf.

We are currently harvesting this year’s crop using a stripper header. These are designed and built by Shelbourne Reynolds an agricultural machinery manufacture based here in Suffolk. It is like a giant Hoover attachment for our combine, fast rotating fingers gather the crop that lies close to the ground, lifting it up and literally striping the seed from the stem. The rotor is turning at 750rpm and any material pulled from the plant is then fed up into the combine where it is thrashed and separated using sieves, shakers and flows of air. The seed then is captured in the tank of the combine and the remains of the stem and seed husk is thrown out the back of the combine.

Brian Barker harvesting grass

The seed is taken back to the farm by tractor and trailer where it is placed at about two meters deep over a floor with grids built into it. High powered fans blow dry air through these grids to dry the seeds and reduce its temperature. These fans run all day and night until the seed is dry enough to store without it going mouldy.

Brian Barker grass seed

Then through the winter months we process the seed in a cleaning plant in our barn that removes all unwanted material and any weed seeds. Only when the purity of the seed is over 98% can we fulfil our contract with Barenburg. They then collect the cleaned seed where it is blended into their mixes for lawns or sports pitches.

Grass is a wonderful crop for our farm with consideration to biodiversity and soil condition and our farming system is built around it.

Find out more about AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Strategic Farms

This blog was originally written for the East Anglian Daily Times



Brian and his cousin Patrick run E.J. Barker & Sons, a family farm partnership and contracting business in Suffolk dating back to 1957. The 667ha arable farm business is farmed on 12 - and nine-year rotations, incorporating winter wheat for feed, spring barley, herbage grass seed, oilseed rape and a break crop of beans, linseed or peas. Environmental consideration is crucial to the running of the business, and remains a key factor in all decision-making on farm.