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Pre-em trials go under cover

Agronomy Issues
Pre em soil moisture trial covers
Artificial covers on pre-emergence trials at Barton Black-grass Focus Site aim to assess the importance of soil moisture for herbicide activity under a range of farm practices, as a guide for growers' future decisions

The field performance of pre-emergence herbicides has always been known to rely upon soil moisture for effective results.

Now, innovative new trials at the Syngenta Black-grass Focus Site, in Cambridgeshire, are seeking to evaluate how new cultivation and establishment techniques, along with other agronomic tools, could influence just how much moisture is required – and if growers could make other changes to mitigate the effects.

Drilling 2019 Barton trials

Putting a series of trials under the cover of a grow tent, to manage moisture, will enable Syngenta Field Technical Manager, James Southgate, to further investigate the complex challenges of Black-grass control at a practical farm scale. It’s part of over 400 field plots on the site at Barton, hosted by grower, Tim Scott. 

“Having a long-term Black-grass Focus Site on an established farm, with a serious historical weed burden, has enabled us to look at a myriad of different options and influences open growers and agronomists,” reported James.

“It has already provided some realistic solutions and changed the way growers approach an Integrated Weed Management strategy. Now in its third season, we are beginning to see long-term trends and implications of techniques, as well as the chance to test out and adopt other novel ideas.”

This year’s work will include adding to the matrix of knowledge from comparing conventional; direct drill and min-till establishment year-on-year. New research will look at assessing the influence of autumn cultivations on residual herbicide performance, as well as the impacts of differing levels of straw residues.

Barton site Black grass population Autumn 2019

A huge trial area will assess how different cereal crops and varieties - including winter wheat, barley, oats and triticale; spring wheat, barley and oats - all influence Black-grass populations and effects. Five different commercial drills have been used, whilst also investigating the effect of seed rates, sowing date, Vibrance Duo seed treatment and even the direction of drilling.

Once again the site’s application trials, the results of which have pioneered the ‘Go Low; Go Slow; Get Covered’ approach now adopted as industry standard for pre-emergence herbicides, will seek to refine and enhance spray techniques for grass weed control.

“The trials plan has got bigger and more complicated every season,” James pointed out. “It is a trials manager’s nightmare. But every trial, whatever the result, is adding to the learning.”

A visit to the Syngenta Black-grass Focus Site has now become a ‘must do’ event for farmers and agronomists from across the eastern counties and further afield, with many attending more than once through the season.

Barton site taking shape Autumn 2019

A new visits programme for 2019 will be announced over the winter. Furthermore, there will be a full results meeting from the 2018 trials in Cambridge on Tuesday 27 November – Click here for details and to register.