Let's talk about weeds!

Let’s talk about weeds and how to tackle them! It’s a time consuming, thankless job but someone has to do it!

Over the last couple of weeks at Littleseed Farm we’ve been doing some essential work out in the rapeseed fields and the main challenge has been combating the Black Grass. So called as its seed heads can look black at some times of the year. It’s also known as ‘Slender Meadow Foxtail’ or ‘Black Twitch’, though us British farmers do like to call it Black Grass as it sounds more hideous than Slender Meadow Foxtail, doesn’t it! Nonetheless, whatever it is called, it certainly is the nightmare of us crop growers.

The problem is its tendency to spread as the plant produces a very great number of seeds – having between 2-20 ears, with approximately 100 seeds per ear, and the seed is shed before the crop is cut. Most seed germinates in the first three years, but some can remain dormant for up to nine years! And if uncontrolled, populations can increase 30 fold! So, you can see the problem!

There’s a couple of ways we can combat this – burying the seed deeply is a good idea as this weed only germinates in the top 5cm of soil. Also spreading the seeds to clean fields can be avoided by using weed free seed and thorough cleaning of the combine. It seems to be herbicide resistant, so we need to think outside the box with this one.

It flowers from May to August and can grow up to 80cm, with hairless leaves which are green to purplish in colour. The spikelets are cylindrical, yellow-green, pale green or purple in colour. So, do look out for them, and if you see some growing when out and about on a walk through the countryside, do give it a tug but be careful not to spread those seeds!

Alex Oates