Historically, pernicious weed has not been a problem for the farming business and while still not a major concern today – there are some weird pockets that Mr Rowe thinks there are. ‘they came in via baling contractors – she’s definitely on the radar.
“We are aware of the presence of blackgrass on the farm and we are addressing it as part of our culture and chemical control strategy,” says Mr Rowe who operates in partnership with his brother Philip and his father FW Rowe and Sons, Comberford Farm, Tamworth.
Small incremental changes to the farm operation over the past few years have maximized the profitability of the 4,250 acres of land which is partly owned (320 acres) and leased (1000 acres), while the remainder is operated in sharing and under contract. The company operates over seven farms within a 20 mile radius and supports over 1150ac of rapeseed, 1700ac of winter wheat and nearly 170ac of second and main crop potatoes, 1050ac of winter barley and 227 ac of winter rye.
âBromine around headlands is more difficult and we also have to deal with the usual broadleaf weeds such as cleavers and mealybugs. Culturally our goal is to prepare a level and consistent seedbed achieved using both deep and shallow cultures. A good seedbed helps with crop establishment and weed control.
âOur herbicide program focuses on stacking pre-emergence options and this now also includes Avadex, which is applied using a Vaderstad BioDrill attached to the back of our Rapid RDA 8 bit. mr. “
Soils vary from blown sand to heavy clay and often everything else can exist in the same field. This can make the choice of crop a challenge and Mr Rowe says he has fields so heavy they should be turned into permanent pasture. However, the average five-year winter wheat yield is a respectable 4 t / acre.
The cultivator fleet includes a 6m TopDown and a 7m TopDown which are used to a depth of 10 inches. The larger TopDown also has a double SteelRunner on the back to help with seedbed preparation and to break up consolidation. A 6m Sumo Quattro plus BioDrill is used to plant the rapeseed. Its subsoiler feet drop down to 17 inches while the discs help mix and chop previous wheat stubble. Two RexiusTwins and two rotary harrows complete the range.
For wheat sown in rapeseed stubble, Mr. Rowe uses a TopDown immediately after harvest, ideally when the soil is dry. Leaving the soil in later in the season before preparing a seedbed is often counterproductive, especially on heavier soils which can be tricky in wet weather.
Before sowing he uses a 10.3m RexiusTwin and 6.3m RexiusTwin to mix and level the soil and in the most difficult soils he also uses two power harrows right in front of the seeder. The RDAs are equipped with System Disc front tools, and on the last model purchased in 2016, a BioDrill for applying Avadex granules has been added.
âIt appears that many farmers have chosen to go the direct route of drilling, believing that minimal soil movement will help control black grass,â says Rowe. âBut, we often tend to do the opposite of everyone else, and it’s hard to walk away from what has always worked for us. Some farmers might think we are a bit heavy on our crop choice, but our goal is to achieve a level seedbed and consistent seeding depth across the field.
“What struck us a few years ago was that a lot of farmers turned to spring crops because their winter herbicide costs had gone up when trying to mainly control black grass,” explains he does. âWe don’t have large areas of black grass yet, so we’re not in that situation and we haven’t included the spring crops, although we’ve grown around 400 acres of combinable peas in the past because we were limited to light soils. Peas at the time were as profitable as the second wheat, so that also made economic sense. “
Mr Rowe says his current farming practices do not follow the minimum tillage strategies adopted by many farmers due to the blackgrass problem.
âWe still think we should go deep. Working at depth reduces compaction. We still have machines running on the land, so we have little choice, although it would reduce our machinery costs by taking a minimum tillage approach.
âWe’ve been using a TopDown since 2004 and it’s the only machine in the line that has stood the test of time,â says Rowe. âWe understand the issues with blackgrass and we want to nip it in the bud before it takes hold on this farm. This is why we have chosen to use Avadex in addition to our existing pre-emergence herbicide choices.