Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

How to halt the spread of sterile brome

Sterile brome lurks unnoticed in many hedges, dikes and ditches all over the country. Once given a fighting chance it will spread like wildfire.
Sterile brome lurks unnoticed in many hedges, dikes and ditches all over the country. Once given a fighting chance it will spread like wildfire.

Michael Hennessy

Sterile brome has become the most talked about weed over the past number of years. It's a weed almost everybody ignored until minimum tillage came along. Minimum tillage allowed the weed to grow almost unchecked with herbicides a little hit and miss depending on the year. For many of the early adopters of this establishment technique it was a step too far and due to the build up of the weed they returned to the plough.

Most people asked where did this weed come from and how did it spread? The easy answer would be to say it came in seed but this would not be true.

Sterile brome along with its cousins (soft , meadow, great, rye brome to name but a few) are native to Ireland and lurk unnoticed in many hedges, dikes and ditches all over the country. Once the weed is given a fighting chance it will spread like wild fire. Controlling the weed is relatively easy but not everybody are using the correct tools, rotation or time of sowing to adequately control the weed every year. The following are the best ways to control the weed. Long term control will be achieved by implementing all or as many of the following points as possible.

Identifying the weed As mentioned there are many types of brome and controlling the different types is specific to that brome type. Sterile brome is distinctive by its purple, drooping heads are seen above cereal crops in June into July. Once identified you can map patches on the farm where additional action should take place.

Don't let brome spread across the farm in seed Certified seed has a zero tolerance to brome and you should follow this good example

Use cultivations wisely Ploughing is one of the best tools to reducing populations. As the weed is short lived deep ploughing will reduce populations by 90pc over a two year period. Using stubble cultivations can also be extremely effective at reducing seed return. Sterile brome will germinate quickly ones buried just beneath the surface. Try to do this as quickly as possible after harvest

Don't ignore small patches Increasingly brome can be seen at the ins and outs on headlands. This is where the top layer of stubble (containing seeds from the previous year) is not ploughed down correctly burying the seed. Consider widening the headland where ploughing of the centre of the field stops further into the field allowing a much bigger headland. This pushes out the ins and outs to a clean part of the field where brome seed is not as prevalent.

Keep natural grasses in hedges Applying glyphosate to hedges can seem like the best response to brome but this actually encourages the weed as it eliminates perennial grasses which complete and keep annuals grasses such as brome at bay.

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Harvesting Where brome is creeping out from the hedges leave this until the end of harvesting the field (and possibly) to the end of harvest to minimise spread by the combine through the field. Ensure combines and balers are well cleaned down both internally and externally after harvesting a field with brome to minimise spread to the next field

Use rotations where possible Combining winter and spring cropping and including non-cereal crops in the rotation give the best opportunity to controlling the weed

Finally, if you spot a grass weed you don't recognise then pull it and get some help to identify it. Grass weeds like canary grass and black grass can multiply quickly and you have to take a zero tolerance to them on the farm.

Indo Farming