For Cambridgeshire farm manager Paul Drinkwater, the 5×5 project field is in a better situation now than it was at the onset of the project.
He says: “Over the course of the project I would say we have done what we wanted – proved we can have a profitable
rotation which also stops blackgrass getting out of hand on this soil regardless of weather and other problems.”
Mr Drinkwater, who is retiring this summer, has put in place a black-grass control system for his successor to continue.
“The plan for this land in future is to do as little ploughing and deep cultivation as possible to keep black-grass in the
surface layer. We’ve made adjustments to our methods; before we were min-tilling to fivesix inches, now we have gone shallower to 3-4in but getting really shallow as some people recommend is very tricky.”
Last autumn, Mr Drinkwater was the only project farmer to sow wheat, all the others were unable to drill as a result of waterlogged soil conditions.
Even so, Mr Drinkwater had to change from the shallow cultivation approach.
“We are back in winter wheat for the first time in five years in the 5×5 field. Last autumn we drilled winter wheat on October 28 after sugar beet. The ground had to be ploughed before drilling; it was the only way to establish the crop even though one of our aims was to stop relying on the plough.
“We were in the situation of ‘we’d better get something in’, so we ploughed. The land was last ploughed in 2012, so there has been plenty of time for any buried seed to die off.”
The crop received a preem of Liberator [flufenacet + diflufenican] + Defy [prosulfocarb] on October 30 and Liberator and Hatra [mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron] in March.
“It’s had a full herbicide programme to control blackgrass,” says Mr Drinkwater.