Farming News - Consider joining a Countryside Stewardship scheme as part of blackgrass management

Consider joining a Countryside Stewardship scheme as part of blackgrass management

22 Jun 2022
Agronomy / Frontdesk / Arable

Farmers planning to manage blackgrass populations using a stewardship mix through the Countryside Stewardship AB15 scheme have until 29 July 2022 to make a new mid-tier application. Those newly engaging with the scheme this year will receive payments from 2023 to 2028, when the scheme ends entirely.

Amy Watts, environmental seeds product manager at Wynnstay, highlights the merits of using a legume fallow mix to control blackgrass.  

“The species in the mix smother blackgrass, along with other weeds, while providing a pollen and nectar source for pollinators, or chick food for farmland birds,” she says.

Ms Watts explains that a legume fallow mix can be managed by regular cutting throughout the five-year stewardship commitment, to reduce the number of viable blackgrass seeds present.

“After sowing in August or September in year one, the mix should be cut at least twice between 1 March and 31 October the following year to prevent blackgrass going to seed.

“In the second year after establishment, aim to cut between 1 March and 15 May, again to control blackgrass,” she adds.

From 15 August in the third year, the original area can be returned to the arable rotation. Sowing a new site with the legume fallow mix for the remainder of the scheme enables maximum impact in controlling blackgrass,” says Ms Watts. “The same cutting regime can then be followed through to year five of the scheme.” 

For Ms Watts, the use of a legume fallow mix should be viewed as a long-term investment.

“It doesn’t generate the same level of cash flow as a cash crop, but the mixtures can help increase yields on poorer or more difficult sites,” she says.

“By smothering existing blackgrass and reducing the number of viable seeds, the requirement for herbicides can be reduced as the site re-enters the rotation,” she explains.

“Also, the legumes in the mix can fix nitrogen, potentially reducing the need for nitrogen inputs for the following crop.

“We’re still waiting to see the ‘meat on the bones’ when it comes to what support will be available for arable farmers through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, so getting involved in the established Countryside Stewardship with a guaranteed payment will be well worth considering for many,” Ms Watts concludes.

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