May 16, 2014

16/05/14: Researchers seize the black-grass initiative

The urgent call for solutions to the current UK black-grass management challenge has seen HGCA and BBSRC join forces to co-fund a pioneering new research initiative – and growers are asked to play a crucial role in the project by providing black-grass samples.

The £2.8m injection of funding has helped six UK academic institutions combine their weed research expertise in the BBSRC-HGCA Black-Grass Project in a united effort to understand and get on top of black-grass.

Central to the project is a survey, starting this summer, looking to provide an unprecedented insight into the scale of black-grass resistance across the UK.
“It is now generally accepted that some degree of resistance occurs on virtually all farms on which black-grass herbicides have been used regularly,” said Paul Gosling, HGCA Research and KT Manager.

“This new initiative will further our understanding of the evolution of herbicide resistance, including the spread of resistance mechanisms and the impact of resistance on weed densities and crop yields.”

Growers are being asked to play an essential part in the project by providing black-grass seed samples from fields with a known field management history.

Samples will then be assessed by the research team and growers invited to attend forums to discuss resistance status and resistance management. Information will be treated in confidence and individuals will not be identified in any published findings.

To express an interest in participating in the UK black-grass resistance survey, email

The work is also looking to improve diagnostic tools, so low-level resistance can be detected in the field and nipped in the bud before it becomes an established menace.

Dr Paul Neve, Rothamsted Research, said: “By combining state-of-the-art genomic approaches with weed ecology and agronomy, we will unravel the major driving forces for the evolution of multiple herbicide resistance.

“In-field resistance diagnostics will be developed to aid early detection and provide farmers with the opportunity to manage resistance proactively.”

The black-grass resistance initiative will be launched officially at Cereals 2014 in the BBSRC, Rothamsted Research and John Innes Centre marquee located on stand L-1218-12 (next to HGCA).

At the launch, taking place on the second day (12 June 8:30–9:30), Rob Edwards, from Newcastle University, and Paul Neve, from Rothamsted Research, will outline plans for the research as part of a science breakfast discussion on the role of science to find solutions to the black-grass challenge.

The announcement of the new initiative coincides with the release of a new HGCA publication based on black-grass solutions.

Dr Gosling said: “As there is a lack of ‘resistance’ to non-chemical control methods, these are the most sustainable in the long term.

“The new publication draws on the latest research findings and quantifies the control level possible with non-chemical control approaches.

“It is clear that growers can make up for the shortfall in pre-em and post-em herbicide efficacy by deploying a mix of cultural control options – with spring cropping topping the list.

“As the new CAP greening rules permit winter and spring varieties to be counted as different crops, this could provide extra incentive to use spring cropping to provide consistently good reduction in weeds.”

The publication also outlines the value of conducting resistance tests in developing more targeted herbicide programmes, and how to launch an attack on problematic patches of black-grass.

Growers should also take the opportunity to visit HGCA Stand K-1203-12 to find out more about the black-grass resistance initiative as well as the potential of using cover crops as a cultural control option for weeds, including how ‘biofumigant’ chemicals released from cover crop residues are helping to suppress weed activity in pot trials.

All the latest information is available on HGCA’s new black-grass pages (see to help growers plan their own unique approach to managing this pernicious weed.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine GFMT which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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