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LWA/OGA Couch Control group

This group are interested in the potential for buckwheat (and other crops) to reduce couch grass infestations. Can crops such as buckwheat be built into the rotation to reduce the couch grass burden, what are the costs and benefits, and can we compare it to other means of control such as fallowing?

This group is run by The Organic Research Centre for Land Workers Alliance and Organic Growers Association members only - please contact the coordinator for more information and to find out how to get involved.

Group Topic

Managing weeds without herbicides

Reducing the use of synthetic herbicides is good for the environment and farmers' bottom lines. What different methods of tackling weeds are available and how do they work in different situations?

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    Green manures / buckwheat for weed control -

    This meeting on Wednesday 12th September will open a second year of trials and is looking for further growers to be involved.

    Please visit the Eventbrite page to register for free: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/weed-control-and-green-manures-buckwheat-for-couch-control-tickets-48829035961


    10.30: Arrival and coffee in the farm shop
    10.45: Welcome and introductions (Sally/Dominic and all)
    11.00: Introduction to the group and trial updates and planning (Sally/Dominic and triallists)
    11.30: Weeds and green manures – management options (Ian Wilkinson)
    12.00: Discussion
    12.30: Tour of Purton Trial and green manures (Ed Sweetman)
    13.30: Lunch and close

    Location: Purton House Organics, Church Street, Purton, SN5 4EB


    Please contact us at info@innovativefarmers.org or Field Lab the coordinator at sally.w@organicresearchcentre.com on and we'll be happy to help.

    Purton House Organics



    Methods discussion meeting -

    The group coordinator, research and participants met to discuss the details of the trial methods. Five triallists methods were agreed and it was decided that this year will act as a proof of concept, in order to have a look at buckwheat on the host farms with controls and come back and compare notes. Assessments for differences post-trial were also agreed. Details of this meeting can be found in the field lab achievements posts.

    The next meeting was scheduled to be at Abbey Home Farm, in the first week of August.

    Photos from the meeting can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskSqMKXk

    Abbey Home Farm, Cirencester



    Results from 2017 discussion -

    The group met to discuss each triallists progress throughout this first year. Each farm's review can be seen in the subsequent posts. During the meeting the following issues were also raised and discussed:


    • The simpler the procedure the better as far as the growers were concerned. Most concurred they wished they’d done it earlier before it got too busy. It was also too dry to dig holes once they’d left it to May or June.

    • Separating out and weighing the rhizomes - was it really necessary? Some found that just giving a visual score or taking a photo of the rhizomes dug from each sample hole was enough. North Aston Organic just did a visual score. Abbey Home Farm did both and found that they seemed to match.

    • Abbey Home Farm - found that in some plots where strips of couch from previous pathways – if the ‘random sampling hit these (or didn’t) could skew results.

    Other thoughts

    • Green manures and leys as pure stands provide a way in for couch grass to get established. Better to move away from pure clover leys. Multi-species mixes are better.

    • The size of seed is an issue as most growers don’t have arable drills and tend to broadcast green manures. Not been able to get buckwheat deep enough to get enough moisture and avoid predation by birds.

    • Abbey Home Farm - Importance of combining approach – hammer the ground first with cultivations before sowing the buckwheat. Late sowing of buckwheat allows more time for cultivations and it could be the factor influencing the survival of couch (or not) in the subsequent crop.

    • Ploughing followed by rotavating can be an effective control - Abbey Home Farm has moved away from rotavating due to damage to soil structure and smearing/panning when soil is wet – uses power-harrow.

    • Phacelia is a very effective summer/autumn green manure which is cultivated in very easily in the Spring.

    Reports from each farmer can also be found in the achievements posts.

    Abbey Home Farm



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