Backrow Max is a key part of the strategy

Keith Challen has made significant improvements to black-grass control on the heavily burdened soils of the Belvoir Estate over recent years, and sees Backrow Max as a key part of the strategy.

Keith is farm director at Belvoir Farming Company, Leicestershire where he oversees the management of 1,200ha of very heavy clay soils which have historically been plagued by black-grass. However, through meticulous attention to detail and using the full breadth and width of both chemical and cultural controls, the farm has made significant progress over recent years and is now achieving 98% control.

Backrow Max benefits to Keith:

  • Helps retain pre-ems in the top 5cm of the soil
  • Crop and groundwater safety
  • Huge uplift in black-grass control in dry and wet years
  • Mainstay of the programme

Battling black-grass with Backrow Max

Keeping chemistry in the soil

A key part of Keith’s strategy is getting the chemistry right and retaining it in the soil for longer, which is where Backrow Max has proven to be highly beneficial, believes Keith – even in a season like this one where unpredictable weather patterns led to higher weeds levels than usual.

“We actually walked the farm in its entirety in February and said we’d got the best black-grass control we’d had in years,” says Keith. “We put this down to having Luximo (cinmethylin) on farm this year and using it in combination with Interagro’s adjuvant, Backrow Max, which has been a mainstay of our programme for a number of years and helps retain pre-ems in that top 5cm.”

Backrow Max is a part of the mix every year

This year’s chemical programme included Luximo with Backrow Max at pre-emergence, followed by flufenacet, again with Backrow Max in the tank, at peri-emergence, applied in 250 litres/ha water, he explains. “We used Luximo on 99% of the farm because of the clay and the high black-grass levels, partnered with Pontos (flufenacet + picolinafen) and Backrow Max,” explains Mr Challen. “At peri-em, we follow up with Giddo (flufenacet + diflufenican), Octavian Met (diflufenican + flufenacet + metribuzin) and Backrow Max and that’s usually it – and that normally does a damn good job.

“For us, Backrow Max is part of the mix every year – it’s not a case of ‘do we, don’t we’, it’s just something we always use in the tank mix. This farm is a ‘stressful’ farm, and by that I mean it’s either too wet or too dry. But the Backrow Max seems to stabilise whatever product we use and that’s really key for us.”

Battling black-grass with Backrow Max

Backrow Max battle plan

Backrow Max is a specialist residual herbicide adjuvant which can be incorporated into to pre- and peri-emergence tank mixes to maximise performance in all weather conditions, explains Interagro’s technical manager, Stuart Sutherland. “Weather has always presented the biggest challenge to arable crops and is now putting even more pressure on farmers and their herbicide programmes. Rainfall in particular is becoming increasingly unpredictable and extreme.”

The challenge with that from a crop protection point of view is that heavy rain moves herbicides out of the weed germination zone, adds Stuart. “By optimising herbicide droplet size, and by binding to clay particles in the soil, Backrow Max not only enhances herbicide coverage across the soil, it also works to consistently maintain a lethal dose of active herbicide in the weed germination zone. “This is particularly valuable in reducing the impact of a dry autumn or spring on herbicide performance and maximising crop safety and efficacy in adversely wet conditions, not to mention the water stewardship benefits.”

Crop safety advantage

Keith says this crop safety advantage is something he has noted too. “We had 150mm of rain in November which for us is unheard of, but the Backrow Max seemed to just hold the pre-ems in that crucial top 5cm zone. Not only is that good for the control of black-grass, but it also helps from a groundwater safety perspective too – Backrow Max will keep the pre-em herbicides where you want them and not down the drain or running off.”

Sticking to the strategy

Though the early joy of good weed control was short lived this season due to the wettest ever March on farm and an abundant late flush of weeds, Keith says he’ll be sticking with his tried and tested approach going forward. “We had untold levels of black-grass, wild oats, brome – everything. By then, all the pre-em and peri-em products had run out of steam.

“The black-grass in particular was quite an issue to tackle – to go from being so clean to dirty was a challenge. Something I’d never seen before was the carpets of blackgrass at harvest, from seed that had shed the month before.

“However, I think it’s vital not to farm next year based purely on this season, so I won’t be changing what we do going forward – the chemistry works, the technology works and the Backrow Max works. We’d be fairly unlucky to get the same next year and I want to be proactive, not reactive, in terms of how we tackle the black-grass here.”

Strengthening the approach

Keith is, however, hoping to strengthen his approach to black-grass, through a new on-farm trial looking at harvest weed seed control, hosted by BOFIN (British On Farm Innovation Network). At a practical level, this involves having a Redekop seed control unit fitted to his Fendt combine which is claimed to help control key weeds like black-grass by milling the chaff to a fine dust which in turn destroys weed seeds. “I’m hoping this will take care of any seed still on the ear at harvest which we haven’t been able to control through the programme earlier in the year.”

Battling black-grass with Backrow Max

Backrow Max remains key to the programme

Chemistry-wise, Keith says he’ll likely be adopting the same approach as this year. “Of course, Backrow Max will remain a key part of the programme. It’s a staple for us. In dry years, we find it adds a lot to the mix and gives us a huge uplift in control and in wet years it bonds the chemistry well.

“The question will be whether we put an extra bit of flufenacet on post-Christmas if the weather patterns seem to be heading the same way as this year.”

Take your black-grass control to the max with Backrow Max

Adjuvant Backrow Max not only ensures maximum placement of pre-ems where they are needed, it also helps ensure they work as hard, and for as long, as possible.

You can find out more about Backrow Max by clicking here.

Please get in touch with Stuart below if you have any questions and need help.

Backrow Max can be purchased through Agrii in the UK

Battling black-grass with Backrow Max