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Improving crop profitability by using minimum cultivation and exploiting grass weed ecology. - LK0923

New EU support measures are exposing the European production of arable commodity crops to world prices. These prices are currently at a historical low and are likely to continue at this level in the medium term. This is resulting in a further intensification of autumn sown crops and the desire to reduce cultivation costs. These two factors will lead to a further increase in annual grass weed numbers, herbicide use and resistance to herbicides unless there is an improvement in the understanding of the ecology of grass weeds and this new knowledge is fully exploited.

Reducing cultivation costs provides a major opportunity towards the reduction of overall costs of production of combinable crops and can represent over 20% of the unit cost of production. However, minimum cultivations (shallow non-inversion cultivation to a maximum of 5-10 cm) run the risk of increasing grass weed infestations and herbicide resistance. Annual grass weeds are now widely seen as a major constraint in reducing costs on many farms. This was specifically identified in both the recent HGCA Weed Research Strategy meeting (25 January 2000) and the MAFF meeting to review priorities for weed research strategy (Clarke, 1999).

The challenge is therefore to make sure that weed infestations can be contained within reduced cultivation systems without increasing the reliance on herbicides and increasing the risk of herbicide resistance.

The overall hypothesis is that improved knowledge on the ecology of black-grass can be exploited to enable the weed to be managed and controlled under a minimum cultivation regime.
1. To understand, through laboratory, controlled environment and small plot investigations, the cultural and environmental factors which influence black-grass seed dormancy and germination, to quantify the impact on subsequent infestation levels and to develop predictive methods that can be used as tools to optimise crop management and cultivation techniques;
2. To quantify, in large plots, the relative importance of management and natural factors on black-grass populations (arising from both freshly shed seed and the seedbank) as affected by dormancy, soil type, season and presence of straw;
3. To integrate the results into practical guidelines to reduce cultivation and weed control costs by using an improved knowledge of population biology.
Project Documents
• Abstract : LK0923 Minimum cultivations and grass weed ecology Abstract   (9k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2001

To: 2005

Cost: £400,002
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), Syngenta, Simba International Ltd, J.C.Mann Trust, Home Grown Cereals Authority, Velcourt Ltd, Monsanto UK Ltd, ADAS UK Ltd., Morley Research Centre
Arable Farming              
LINK Programme              
Natural Resource Use              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Weed Control              
Fields of Study
Arable Crops