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Claas combine harvester working

Grass weed control before and during harvest

Author: Jimmy Staples 

 

Unfortunately, there is no room for a holiday when it comes to controlling grass weeds as one slip-up can lead to large quantities of seed being introduced back into the seed bank and undoing a lot of the good work that has already been done during the growing season. There are a number of actions that can be taken now and during the harvest that can complement actions already taken and enhance the level of control achieved.

 

Grass Weeds

With the plant protection season drawing to a close, now is a great time to get back into crops and identify any potential issues. At this time of the year, grass weeds will have emerged above the crop canopy and when they have headed out, it is the easiest time to identify them. The main grass weeds that we need to be concerned about are as follows:

 

 

Diagram of grass weeds

 

 

Grass Weed Control: Before Harvest 

All of these grass weeds can multiply rapidly so a zero-tolerance approach should be taken especially where herbicide resistance has been identified. At this stage in the year, preventing seed return should be a priority. Walking your crops after the final sprays have been applied is a good habit to get into as it allows you to identify any troublesome patches within fields that may not have been controlled by herbicides.

It’s worthwhile taking samples from these weeds and sending them off to the Teagasc Enable Conservation Tillage Programme for resistance testing. We have confirmed resistance in populations of wild oats and ryegrass here in Wexford so it pays to be vigilant.

Where crops are clean and herbicides have done their job, pay attention to areas where the sprayer may have missed such as the ins and outs on headlands, field gaps/gates and areas on the headland where turning. These areas can provide useful information about what weeds are in the field and allow you to plan ahead if something new or unusual is found.

Practical options for preventing seed return will focus on rogueing which is your most cost-effective tool where populations are low. Where larger patches are identified, crop destruction or whole cropping may have to be considered depending on the current crop and your planned rotation.

 

Grass Weed Control: During Harvest 

Avoid harvesting areas where a significant population of grass weeds is present as you risk spreading weed seeds further across the field and potentially through your farm or where harvesting and baling are done on hire to another farm.

During harvest, machine hygiene has become increasingly important to help stop the spread of grass weeds and particularly where resistant weeds have been identified. Combines and balers are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to the spread of grass weeds, therefore it is important to clean down these machines when moving from field to field or farm to farm where grass weed issues have been identified.

Where possible, combines and balers should be blown down before moving to a new field or farm. Many newer combines will have a cleaning programme which can simplify the task and reduce the time involved. Having a compressor or a leaf blower at hand will greatly speed up the job. Nobody can be expected to fully clean down a combine or baler in the field but spending half an hour cleaning down a machine could prevent years of heartache and frustration.

Putting a strategy in place to help control and stop the spread of grass weeds can be relatively straightforward, it’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and make a plan.

If any customers have an issue with grass weed, please contact Jimmy Staples directly.

 

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Grazing 2022: Maintaining milk production alongside grass issues

Author: Jack Scallan 

 

The last twelve months have seen many unprecedented changes in agriculture, both globally and domestically. The dairy industry did not escape these changes. There has been a major reduction in milk production globally due to mainly grain/feed and fertiliser prices which have increased exponentially over the last 18 months, while global demand has been maintained. This has led to the milk price increasing from about 30c/l base price to an unprecedented base price of about 52c/l over the same period.

 

Grass Quality and Quantity 

In Ireland, milk production is mainly based on grass, which is a very variable product both in quantity and quality. This has been seen throughout the spring and early summer where growth rates were very good in January and February but were poor in late March and April to improve again in mid-May. This may well be the pattern for the rest of the year depending on rainfall.

Also, during this time, grass quality was very variable and this changed from week to week. Grass protein over the grazing period has been poor in general. Normally it should be around 22 to 28%, however it hardly reached 18-19% throughout the spring. Protein in the diet will drive milk yield but grass is the main source of protein in the diet of a spring calving herd. If dietary protein is low, then milk yield will be reduced and peak milk is not reached. An indication of low dietary protein is milk urea, which fluctuated quite a lot this spring/summer.

 

Grassfield

 

Energy and Fibre

Energy and fibre have been variable throughout the grazing period also. Fibre (NDF), though low at times, has been steadily increasing to normal levels lately, which means that rumen function will become more normalised. Both fibre and energy are a major influence on milk fat yield and the general good health of the animal, while energy is a major contributor to milk protein yield. Energy has also varied quite a bit over the grazing period but not as much as protein. Like protein, grass is the main contributor to dietary energy. Indications of low dietary energy are low milk protein and fat yields and poor fertility (though other factors can also influence fertility). Grass dry matter was in general low this spring/summer (approximately 15-16%) and this had a substantial effect on intake which limited the amount of protein and energy that the cow could get from grass.

 

Supplementation 

With grass being so variable in quality and quantity, it will not meet the modern high yielding cow’s dietary requirements. Therefore, it may be necessary to introduce baled silage, maize or even pit silage to enhance dry matter intake. It is essential to supplement the cows with a good quality concentrate/ration (a minimum of 0.96 ufl and 100 grm/kg PDI made from good quality ingredients). A cow giving 26 lt/day would normally need about 3 kg of dairy nuts per day at grass. As grass is so variable, it is probably advisable to feed her 4-5kg /day to ensure she gets her daily dietary requirements. This will incur an extra cost, which will be offset by more consistent milk yield and quality, a stronger immune system (less infections, e.g., mastitis), and less fertility issues.

Contact your Cooney Furlong Farm Representative or call to any of our branches if you have queries about any issues raised in this article.

 

Further Information

To view more articles from our Summer Newsletter, please click here.

 

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