Helen Harris: The dreaded black grass hasn't surfaced yet but it's a real worry

Black-grass taken from a field in Waterford. Picture from Jimmy Staples Teagasc
Black-grass taken from a field in Waterford. Picture from Jimmy Staples Teagasc
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

As I stood in a queue, I overheard two glamorous looking ladies discussing how many steps they had done.

I looked down and thought about what must I look like, in my heavy jeans and full sleeve shirt, sweating profusely, with a big red head on me.

But I had done more than triple the steps that these two ladies had managed.

I had spent the morning hand rogueing grass weeds out of the wheat crop. I'm happy to say I didn't get many, but every tram line still needed to be walked.

The long sleeves and long trousers are essential, or I would have shredded my arms and legs. I was wondering how I could advertise this exercise to people, who would like to increase their steps. They could walk and pick out grass weeds at the same time, boosting their cardiovascular fitness and flexibility in a natural environment. Forget the gym - try the tillage farm workout.

Meanwhile, the most common grass weed around the headland of the field was sterile brome and speckled throughout the wheat crop were either soft brome or meadow brome.

The only wild oats we met was under a pylon which is brilliant as half the farm used to have a serious wild oat problem. All the years of hand-rogueing and spraying have paid off.

We haven't met the dreaded black grass yet, but it's a real worry.

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I think there are going to be many more reported cases this year because of the volume of imported seed and straw from last harvest.

I also think that we need to be very vigilant and not let this aggressive weed take over, like it has in Britain.

I got to see it up close with all the other grass weeds on display at the Teagasc Open Day in Oakpark.

I must congratulate Teagasc on yet another brilliant open day. The work that goes into holding an event like that, is very obvious. I have never been to a Teagasc event where I didn't learn something. It's also a great day to catch up with other tillage farmers and discuss what's going on in the fields. To all involved, keep up the good work. It is very much appreciated.

We have started cutting, but not for ourselves. We cut organic winter barley for a cousin and it came in at 18pc moisture and looked really well.

Our six-row is getting very close and the two-row won't be too far behind that. Our new Claas 660 combine on tracks got its first spin out on the road too and Phil was very impressed.

He thought that with the tracks it might be more difficult to manage on the road, but because the machine is that bit narrower than our previous one, it is very tidy on the road. It is also a little bit quicker so there is less of a tail back behind it.

The winter wheat is starting to turn too.

The patches that had suffered with rust or BYDV are turning slightly quicker, so that's not a good sign. The diseases may have affected yield in those spots. The oil seed rape is also close to being ready for spraying off. How long will we be allowed to do this or will we have to go back to swarthing? It will be interesting to see the vario header cut this year. Will the extra bit of length make much difference?

It should also help to get under the beans when we are harvesting them. I hope to put up a few photos on twitter if anyone is interested.

The weather is the next concern, as we had a few great weeks to get hay and silage made. I would have liked that to continue for a few more weeks, but it's now into broken weather. The next few weeks and months are the really busy time and good weather would make a huge difference.

It was also farm safety week last week and it's a really good time to remind myself just to take time to make sure everything is safe. I wish you all a happy and safe harvest.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on Twitter P&H Harris 


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