Consider cultivation change to cut sterile brome in your crops
Oak Park trials show wheat and barley benefiting from being planted at depths up to 150mm to kill-off spread of the weed
This year has been a much better season than that of last year for minimum tillage (min-till) crops in Oakpark. The wheat was sown in excellent conditions in 2009 but the month of rain afterwards in November had a very detrimental effect on the crop. That was a year when the ploughed ground was better suited to absorb that rainfall.
There was a subsequent urge to change the cultivation depth away from 75-100mm (three to four inches) to something closer to 150-175mm to allow more permeability.
Because it is an ongoing trial-plot, it was decided to retain an unchanged system, and the crop looks none the worse for the decision. It demonstrates that the system is sound, even if it favours good weather at early establishment similar to what we achieved last autumn.
One of the emerging weaknesses of the min-till system for winter barley is its ability to cope with a weed called sterile brome. It became apparent early on this year that our winter barley min-till plots were suffering with a sterile brome problem. While there are good sprays available in wheat to tackle this problem, there is no chemical control available yet in winter barley.
To control a problem using cultural control instead of chemical requires a clear understanding of the weed itself.
Sterile brome, also known as barren brome, is a mainly winter grass, native in rough waste ground, hedgerows and roadsides. It normally spreads from the hedge bottoms and field margins into tillage fields where it may form dense patches. It is becoming more common due to the presence of more continuous winter cereals and the adoption of tillage systems that don't use a plough.
Sterile brome flowers from May to July. On average, more than 200 seeds are produced per plant and a high proportion of these are viable. Seeds start to become viable 3-7 days after flowering. The seed matures rapidly on the plant once ripening begins, and most seed is shed from late June to early August. Because the bulk of seed spreads before harvest, the aim should be to get this seed germinated so it can be sprayed off before the next crop is sown.