REPORT: A farm-made weed wiper has been instrumental in enabling the Cook family to reduce the population of herbicide-tolerant wild oats to a manageable level on their Bedfordshire farm.

Grassweed control remains one of the biggest issues facing arable farmers today. Herbicide resistance is rapidly putting increased pressure on the remaining actives in the armoury, leading growers to look outside the box. For the Cook family, this meant building a 24m weed wiper to enable them to gain control over an increasing population of herbicide-tolerant wild oats.

Together with sons James, Robin and Evan, Richard Cook farms 570ha (1,400ac) split between two farms around 40 minutes apart in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. A flock of 1,700 Easy Care ewes plus lambs is run alongside the arable enterprise. The Bedfordshire farm consists of 340ha (840ac) of undulating Hanslope series clay soils with flint which grows winter wheat, sugar beet and grass. It was here that wild oats levels reached crisis point a few years ago.

The problem
“The farm has been growing continuous cereals since the 1960s,” explains Richard. “This was winter barley through to the early nineties when the cropping slowly swung to wheat plus some set-aside. This was typical of the area, which was barley baron country, and in the early days couch grass, or twitch, was the main problem. The cultivator would be full of it, but Gramoxone successfully took that out. After the straw burning ban, we went from scratch tilths to ploughing, and successfully ploughed our way out of a brome problem within two years. But by doing this I think we ploughed out wild oat seed, as we had more problems with oats than ever before and Avadex failed to control them.”

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