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Brome Knowledge Hub


Brome Control Strategies for Arable Rotations

Five different species of brome cause problems in arable rotations. Soil type, location and cultivation strategy all affect which bromes cause problems on arable farms. Without a pro-active approach, every farming system is likely to create a niche which at least one species of brome can exploit. This guide gives an overview of how to stay in control of brome.



Check population – identification

The five species of brome are divided into two groups; anisantha and serrafaculus as shown in the tables below.



Common name

Scientific name


Barren or sterile brome

Anisantha sterilis

Great brome

Anisantha diandra



Common name

Scientific name


Meadow brome

Bromus commutatus

Soft brome

Bromus hordaceus

Rye brome

Bromus secalinus


Effective management of brome depends on correct identification of the species causing problems on farm. Identification at earlier growth stages is challenging but possible. However, once seedheads appear in early summer, identification is more straightforward and is a good time to map and plan for next season as well as eliminate serious patches with glyphosate or by-hand.




Differences between species

Anisantha and serrafaculus brome species differ in their response to light which affects dormancy. Barren and great brome (anisantha) seeds germinate in the dark, prolonged exposure to light will cause seeds to become dormant.

Rye, soft and meadow brome (serrafaculus) require after-ripening in light after seed she, they also need light to germinate. Burying seeds to soon causes dormancy, as seed can stay viable for 7–10 years this is a threat to future crops.

Typical germination times also vary between different types of brome but this is not according to whether it is anisantha and seserrafaculus.

See 'Cultivation strategy' for information on how brome dormancy and germination should be managed for different brome using cultivation and herbicides.


Cultivation strategy

Different brome species need different cultivation strategies:

The standard approach for cultivation is as follows:

For barren and great brome – 

These germinate in the dark – so consider cultivating as soon as possible after harvest as this will encourage germination. If there is a good covering of chopped straw, cultivation might not be necessary providing there is sufficient moisture for germination. When their emergence is complete, spray off the weeds with Roundup.

  • For ploughing, there should be good inversion of the furrow slice. The depth should be at least 12.5 cm (5") for barren (sterile) brome and at least 25 cm (10") for great brome infestations, to prevent emergence.
  • The final seedbed should be well consolidated to prevent further emergence of bromes.


For rye, soft and meadow brome 

  • These need light and warmth for the seeds to ripen and mature on the soil surface before germination.
  • After harvest, any cultivation should be left for at least one month to reduce seed dormancy
  • After this time, minimum cultivations to create a stale seedbed can be done. When there is good weed emergence, spray off with a pre-plant treatment of glyphosate.
  • If ploughing, the furrow needs to be well inverted and deep, to ensure minimal emergence of bromes.
  • Good consolidation of the seedbed is required to prevent weed emergence.

However, not all cultivation is done for brome control. Fields may require cultivation for other reasons and the effect on brome dormancy and germination simply needs to be factored into the plans.

The above also presupposes that dormancy is a problem. As a rule, it is better to deal with weed seed straightaway, but rotational considerations and other factors may mean a farmer prefers to let seed become dormant for this season. Whether by accident or design, keeping a record of where dormant seed is likely to be can help avoid nasty surprises for future seasons.


Weed Life Cycles

Delayed autumn drilling is a common tactic for black-grass and Italian ryegrass control but it is not as effective for some brome species which germinate later in the autumn. Sterile brome and soft brome’s peak germination is early autumn, during September, as such delayed drilling is an effective cultural control coupled with a pre-em herbicide to mop up later germinating plants.

Great brome, meadow brome and rye brome all have their peak germination period during November. This is after typical drilling dates and also some time after pre-emergence herbicides are applied meaning crops are not well protected.

To counteract later germination, drilling later is one option but not realistic on many farms but could make sense after beet, potatoes and maize. Applying a top-up residual herbicide is another option to provide more protection. Liberator, Octavian Met and Alternator Met are all options at the top-up timing.

Great Brome

Great Brome Lifecycle

Meadow Brome

Meadow Brome Lifecycle

Rye brome

Rye Brome Lifecycle

Soft brome

Soft Brome Lifecycle

Sterile brome

Sterile Brome Lifecycle



Spring control of brome

Brome survivors from autumn and any later germinating plants can be controlled in spring using contact acting chemistry. Trial results from Bayer’s Chishill weedscreen show significant 10-20% improvement in brome control by using Atlantis Star as the spring pre-em compared to Broadway Star and Pacifica Plus. Read more about timing, application and efficacy of Atlantis Star


Because brome tends to encroach from headlands, there is the option of targeting herbicide applications to these areas to prevent brome becoming more established and causing infestations in field centers.


Patch spraying

Farmers planning to eliminate patches of brome with Roundup in late spring need to pay close attention to timing. Spraying during stem extension is not advised because sugars and amino acids move up to the growing tip of the plant. Glyphosate will move in the same direction and as a result there will most likely be good control of the head but there is a risk of regrowth from the base of the plant and secondary tillers.

Bromes typically have a three to seven-day gap between flowering and beginning viable seed set. If farmers spray too late, there will still be viable seed produced despite the effects of glyphosate.


Brome resistance risks

There are some cases of herbicide resistance in brome but to nowhere near the extent in black-grass or ryegrass. Pre-emergence herbicides and glyphosate are not affected by resistance, only post-ems.

Research published in 2020 investigating resistance found six brome samples out of 60 which were resistant to Pacifica Plus (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + amido) and Broadway Star (pyroxsulam + florasulam). One sample of meadow brome had target site resistance while, non-target site resistance, which is often called metabolic resistance, was present in three samples of sterile brome and one sample each of rye-brome and great brome.

The same piece of research concludes that resistance to ALS-herbicides is rare. However, many farmers have difficulty controlling brome at the post-em timing because resistance is only one factor in herbicide performance. Timing and application technique also need to be optimised to get the best control.

Interestingly, there were no cases of resistance to ACCase chemistry so called ‘fops and dims’ (HRAC Group 2) which gives farmers another option for post-em brome control.



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