Essex farmer David Lord agrees black-grass control has stabilised, but he is on guard against complacency.
“The changes we made quite a few years ago have reduced the peaks; we don’t get the build up of really high populations mainly because of spring cropping.
We still have persistent populations across the farm, but it is manageable,” he says.
He thinks finding spring crops which suit the system is essential for durable black grass control.
Spring oats have been the most important, however, Mr Lord thinks there is a slight uptick in the amount of black-grass he sees.
“We drill in early- to mid-April, but some black-grass comes up even after this.
I wonder if we are selecting for spring germination because blackgrass finds a way?”
If spring germination becomes more of a problem, he will consider stewardship options to take the worst land out of the rotation.
He recently cut a crop of canary seed.
It is drilled late and is quite competitive, so it seems to be a good additional spring crop option, he says.
Adopting a regenerative approach is an important part of staying in control.
“We use cover crops and reduced tillage to improve soils, they are healthy and resilient and able to cope well with a bit of adversity,” adds Mr Lord.
Winter wheat is typically grown one year in three in the rotation.
Delayed drilling and pre-emergence herbicides are vital here, but the system overall does not put too much pressure on chemistry.
“We are not using huge stacks, but they bring a huge amount of control, we can see that with the occasional spray miss.”
But Mr Lord’s experience suggests black-grass will not ever be straightforward to control.
The reasons it became such a problem have not changed: it is still competitive in winter wheat, produces lots of seed and is quite often resistant to post-emergence chemistry.
Against that are the facts that earlier drilling and second wheats are both tempting options for farmers looking to maximise profitability but choosing low-risk, low weed population fields is essential.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggest farmers have found ways to manage black-grass, but the changes to rotation and agronomy required are here to stay.