Straw rake and roll: beating black-grass on heavy land

Growers on heavy land have been thrown a black-grass control lifeline, thanks to a team of independent agronomists who were frustrated at being unable to deploy full cultural control techniques for their clients.

straw rake

Using a straw rake and roll makes stale seedbeds a realistic option for reducing black-grass numbers on heavy land, say independent agronomists J K Senior and Sons, following a demonstration held in Yorkshire this week.

“Cultural control is our number one weapon against black-grass,” says Simon Senior. “But on heavy land, any cultivation deeper than 10mm followed by even a little rain leads to dire conditions and makes this type of land completely unsuitable for travel. 

“Like Bayer CropScience, we have always emphasised the importance of cultural control as being an essential part of any grass-weed control programme.  In the battle against black-grass our growers always had a significant handicap, since stale seedbeds have not been a viable option.

“The straw rake and roll may change all that, however,” enthuses Mr Senior

The machine in question is the Tillso straw rake and roll.  Convinced of its potential as a black-grass germinator that preserves soil structure and water drainage, JK Senior and Sons chose to share their insight and organise a demonstration.

“Tickling the soil surface at a depth of no more than 5mm, the rake evenly distributes straw, shaking seed onto the floor and exposing it to UV light,” explains John Cook, commercial technical manager at Bayer CropScience, who supported JK Senior and Sons’ event.

With the roll following, this ensures good soil-to-seed contact.  Importantly at this depth it doesn’t impact on the structure of the upper soil layer, so that even with heavy rain, the soil retains its drainage qualities.

“Even distribution of straw also maintains the efficacy of pre-emergence herbicides,” he says.  Mr Senior agrees. “Product falling onto accumulations of straw, rather than the soil surface, is missing its target and will not be as effective.  Pre-ems in particular are designed to ‘seal’ the soil surface; germinating black-grass must grow through this layer, absorbing an effective dose of herbicide.”

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