Louth Monitor Farm update: black-grass levels have fallen

Well, after the cold, wet extended winter, still refusing to believe spring started till the middle of April, things are picking up and growing as they should do. All the spring crops are drilled apart from the vining peas and we are pleased with most of them. Cold wet weather over drilling has made establishment more challenging particularly on the heavier soils but we have learnt lessons that will help us in the future.

Drilling into cover crops went well, even though the land was wetter, we still got the crops in and, after a wait for emergence, they are growing strongly. The key point is that black-grass does not make a good cover crop, and a thick carpet seriously hampers emergence of the following crop. However, we are seeing much reduced levels in both winter and spring crops which will help to reduce seed returns and allow us to get on top of the problem. Direct drilling the beans into either over wintered shallow cultivated soil or into cover crops has, so far, prevented any broadleaved weeds emerging, so we are hoping to save on herbicide costs.

The rooting depth of our winter crops is something to behold and we are surprised at just how far the roots will push into the soil. The winter barley had reached 380mm at the beginning of April and shows no ill effects from being sown straight into chopped wheat or spring barley straw. The late drilled winter wheats have picked up and are moving towards T2, so far we haven’t seen major disease pressure, but it is still early yet.

The grassland has been sward lifted, chain harrowed, flat rolled with all allowed fertiliser applied and is taking advantage of the warm weather. All cattle are now outside, with cows and bulls together, apart from those that are being finished.

New and old field drains are still running, with new schemes being installed over the winter, replacing older schemes that had had their useful life. Our heavy land is slowly being re-drained as part of an on-going programme along with any additional places that we have a problem. We undertook a lot of dyke clearance, which meant some serious work in places, but has reaped dividends with previously poor performing drains now operating effectively.



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