Blackgrass control is paramount to the current and future success of Shimpling Park Farms, with heavy weed infestations a major constraint on yield. The starting point of formulating a management strategy was understanding the weeds physiology, and then applying this understanding to our previous practices, highlighting the areas in which we needed to improve.
The reintroduction of livestock onto the farms has allowed us to increase the length of our fertility leys, a proven method for reducing viable seed numbers. The sheep are also involved in grazing wheat trials as part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme. Cropping has moved from all winter to 50/50 winter/ spring, allowing better control of the predominantly autumn germinating weed before spring crops. Blackgrass thrives in wet, compacted soils, which we have addressed by introducing a maintenance scheme for existing drainage and introducing a 9m Controlled Traffic Farming system to confine compaction to the smallest possible area. In crop weeding practices have also been made more robust, with all crops being mechanically inter row hoed to reduce blackgrass plant numbers in growing crops.
If we can improve the use of every tool in our toolbox, the cumulative effect on our blackgrass control will be greater.