Marley Farm is one of Hutchinsons new black grass trials sites, where lessons learnt from the Brampton Black grass Centre of Excellence are being tested in new challenging situations. “We started working with Mr Thacker about two years ago, and the black grass across the farm was like a carpet, so we knew we had to make some serious changes to farm practices to get back to situation where chemical control had a chance to work,” explains Hutchinsons agronomist George Baxter.







Rotational changes

Working closely with Dick Neale, Hutchinsons Technical Manager, black grass expert who has overseen much of the work at Brampton, both men agreed that the first change to make at Marley farm was to the cropping; on the 150ha farm the predominant crop was winter wheat and this was the Achilles heel of the rotation that included sugar beet and oilseed rape. “This left very little scope for cultural black grass management, so we introduced spring barley to the farm two years ago and now spring barley makes up 50% of the rotation whilst combinable peas, oilseed rape and wheat make up the rest.”

Establishment techniques

“Mr Thacker was establishing crops using a plough and combination drill. We discussed how changing this approach could impact black grass control, and after looking at several drill demo’s we came to the conclusion that as the soils on Marley Farm are so good, we were able to direct drill – and since spring 2016 all the crops on Marley Farm have been established using a Weaving GD direct drill and a straw rake – and with excellent results.”

Two years on
With the relevant cultural black grass management techniques in place on the farm and having the desired effect on reducing black grass populations, George Baxter was keen to look at how the Hutchinsons new Omnia Precision Agronomy software could help him further refine this approach.

“We are now in a situation where, instead of the initial carpet of black grass, we are dealing with patches in particular areas of fields. So I wanted to look at how we could manage these patches more accurately without having to spray a whole field for example, allowing costs to be managed more efficiently by targeting herbicides to the areas where they are needed.”

Using Omnia Mr Baxter has generated maps on soil condition, nutrient status, and black grass populations – these will be over laid with yield performance maps.

“It’s been very straightforward to set up and run, it has shown us how all of the factors affecting field performance link up. An input plan was then generated, that varies across the field or sections of the field, allowing us to isolate the areas that need more robust treatment and vice versa. So far we have used it for variable fertiliser and seed rates – and will also use it for herbicides this spring.”

Whilst Mr Thacker has a tractor and combine fitted with GPS, he does not have a sprayer with variable rate application capability.

“However, this has not been a problem, we have worked our way around this as the maps that Omnia generates can work to an on/off system.”

“We can use the maps to decide whether to spray particular parts of a field or not – it’s also easy to over-ride the plans, so you can make changes at any time should you wish to do so.”

“It’s just all about streamlining the process and making what I do as an agronomist more efficient and productive for my client,” says Mr Baxter.