Managing rushes without chemicals

The overall aim of the field lab is to improve productivity: to carry more stock and/or produce more silage or hay.

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Field Lab Timeline

    11/1/2014 12:00:00 AM
  • Idea Formed

    Idea Formed
  • 1/31/2015 12:00:00 AM
  • Sites selected

    Sites selected
  • 3/30/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • Sites assessed

    Sites assessed
  • 6/29/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • First stage of management plan carried out

    Lime applied, field flat-lifted

    First stage of management plan carried out
  • 3/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Site visits and trial assessments

    Site visits and trial assessments
  • 3/29/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Final meeting and management advice

    Final meeting and management advice
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    March 2016

    Future recommendations for rush management

    The single rush plants that had emerged must be controlled through topping or grazing to prevent heading and seeding. If they are allowed to do this then the rush problem could be even worse than it was in the first place. A reseeded field should be checked for these single rushes, and should ideally be grazed rather than shut off and then cut for silage.

    The farmer should keep an eye on the water lying in the fields. If it doesn’t drain away when the field is no longer saturated, field drainage should be looked at. Drainage can be improved by clearing outfalls, jetting drains, and even considering replacing damaged drains. Parts of the field that don’t drain can be used as wader scrapes, as part of agri-environment management. These should be very shallow areas of lying water. In these areas keeping some rushes (about a third of the area) will be beneficial for waders. Poor drainage could be due to soil compaction, so it will be worth getting a spade out and digging a hole to see if this is the case, and remediating with subsoiling or aerating if appropriate.

    It is also important to continue to sample soils and get it analysed (every 4 or 5 years). The recommended amount of lime should be applied to reach the target pH (5.9 at Bilbster). This will ensure liming is done ‘little and often’, which is much better for soil health. SRUC Technical Note TN656 has a table of target pHs for different soil types. Phosphate and potash should also be kept at Moderate status.

    Milestone: Final meeting and management advice

    March 2016

    Future recommendations continued

    If clover doesn’t do well in the sward (and it could be fine, as there was a mild autumn), then oversowing clover seed later on should be considered. If a ploughed reseed fails it shouldn’t be ploughed again, as this will bring weed seeds back to the surface. An oversow should be used instead. Slot seeding or broadcasting can be used to oversowing: slot seeding will work better in drier conditions, and broadcasting will work better in wetter conditions. And an appropriate mix with species that will persist in the long term, and so can compete with rushes, should be used. The ideal seed mix will vary with location, and should be decided after discussion with a grass seed merchant or advisor.

    Please see the documents attached to this field lab for more in depth information about the trials, as well as useful management tips to help deal with your own rush issues.

    Milestone: Final meeting and management advice

    March 2016

    Kirkton and Auchtertyre trial results

    The rushes in the field lab area of the field have not been eradicated, but have been successfully managed to provide an acceptable amount of grazing for livestock. Following this field lab, the rush infestation is much lower in the managed area of the field.

    Without supplementary phosphate and potash, and without draining some of the wetter parts of the field, it will not be possible for the grass to fully compete with the rushes. However the programme of liming and topping has definitely had an effect.

    When tackling rushes it is important to think about the best use of resources. Fully eradicating rushes is expensive and time consuming, so in some situations you can consider doing a bit less to still get some degree of control. At Auchtertyre a programme of liming and topping had provided an acceptable level of control, but not eradication of the rushes.

    Milestone: Site visits and trial assessments

    June 2015

    First stage of management plan carried out

    At the first meeting in Cumbria, rush cover & pH were measured, and compaction was also identified. The group decided these factors should be addressed first. Liming was carried out with prilled lime for a quicker effect and ease of application by hand. The field was also flat-lifted.

    Milestone: First stage of management plan carried out

    June 2015

    Bilbster Mains site trials

    One field was ploughed and reseeded in summer 2015, and carefully managed to get a good take of grass to compete with the rushes. The field with the lower pH was topped and limed before being ploughed and sown in September with a forage brassica and long-term grass seed mix. The grass seed mix that was used contained a mixture of perennial ryegrass varieties, Timothy, and white clover.

    Ploughing was carried out at Bilbster before reseeding in September. Ploughing is the best way of establishing grass and clover, but September could be a bit late in the season for clover to establish.

    Milestone: First stage of management plan carried out

    March 2015

    Selection of six sites

    Six host sites were selected across Scotland and Cumbria, after a call was put out to farmers and crofters across a number of networks looking for those who were interested in taking part.

    Milestone: Sites selected

    March 2015

    Initial assessments of sites

    At each location there was an initial meeting to assess the study site and determine which factors had the most influence on rush prevalence. Soil pits were dug at each location to assess soil structure, wetness, rooting depth and biological activity, and pH & chemical analyses were done. Visual assessments of the study sites were also carried out to gauge rush and grass cover.

    Milestone: Sites assessed

    November 2014

    Initial field lab idea

    Coordinator Colleen McCulloch had regular queries from farmers about controlling rushes, and feedback from other events suggested this was a topic people wanted to look at in more detail.

    Milestone: Idea Formed

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