Managing Your Weed Burden in Wild-Bird Mixtures

In the latest blog our game crop advisor, Arthur Barraclough, looks at managing weed burdens in wild-bird mixtures…

Wild-bird mixtures are often grown on the same area of land year after year – so it is inevitable that weed species will gradually become an issue. Leaving crops for a second year, which is encouraged from a conservation perspective, can also mean that perennial weeds such as docks can take hold.

Mixture Options

Fortunately, Bright Seeds has developed a comprehensive range of wild-bird mixtures that not only fully comply for AB9 and HF12 stewardship options but also tolerate a selective herbicide programme. However, it is important to know the species of weed likely to be an issue as this will determine which mix to lean towards.

Our Broad Buster mix (sorghum, millet, wheat, linseed, and triticale) can be sprayed to control broad-leaf weeds such as fat hen and redshank. If grass weeds, such as rogue millet, are the main problem then our Grass Buster mix is the better option. This mix is mainly made up of brassicas, along with phacelia and linseed.

Easy Grow, which is often referred to by customers as ‘the one with the sunflowers in!’ is another popular mix. This cannot be sprayed post-emergence but can be sprayed with a pre-emergence chemical straight after drilling to control a wide array of weeds.

Crop Rotation

A common approach is to alternate between Broad Buster and Grass Buster. Broad Buster is an annual mix that allows excellent control of broad-leaf weeds. After this, a lot of customers will then grow Grass Buster for the following two years. This rotation is a good, long-term plan that is mindful of weed control as well as preventing any build-up of clubroot and other diseases in the soil.

In areas where wild-bird crops are grown alongside maize, rotating the wild-bird mix with the maize every year or two is always good practice. This way, the full spectrum of weeds can be controlled in maize.

Drilling Date

When it comes to weed control, the date of planting is arguably the most important factor.

Generally, wild-bird mixtures can be planted later in the spring, early June often works well. Species such as sorghum, kale and millet benefit from a warmer seedbed. The main benefit of later drilling is the opportunity to create a stale-seedbed prior to planting. Put simply, this involves creating the seedbed fairly early in the spring as soon as conditions allow – which encourages a flush of weeds. These can then be sprayed off with glyphosate or cultivated in before drilling. This is by far the best tool you have for reducing the weed burden in the crop.

On organic ground, or in areas designated as ‘fallow’ under Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), herbicide application is either prohibited or limited so it can often be a good idea to cultivate the top layer of soil a number of times to kill off as many weeds as possible. As previously mentioned, remember that mixtures can be planted later to enable a good number of weeds to chit before drilling.

No Need to Panic

To summarise, there is no need to panic if weeds are becoming an issue within your stewardship crops. Always feel free to speak to us regarding weed management strategies as there are now a range of different options available to you.

The three main points to take from this blog are: to know what type of weeds are becoming a problem; to not rush to drill the crop too early; and, wherever possible, rotate between crop types.