Tackling a brome problem with more grass

Many farmers across the country have planted grass margins as part of the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).

The margins provide an opportunity to repair soil condition and structure, as well as competing with weeds and providing biodiversity and a home for wildlife.

As grass weeds often invade fields from the boundaries, Teagasc recently published advice for farmers establishing arable margins and controlling brome.

What is an arable grass margin?
  • Arable grass margins are 1.5-3m in width;
  • Located between the field boundary and the main crop;
  • Deliberately managed;
  • Provide habitats for flora and farmland wildlife species;
  • Add biodiversity value and ecosystem services;
  • Protect water quality;
  • Compete with problem weeds like sterile brome.

Establishing a grass margin

Before establishment, the area where the margin is to be planted should be cut and treated with glyphosate to avoid regrowth before planting.

Where brome is a problem in fields, the grass margin being planted should be at least 2m in size, but may be wider if brome has spread further into the field.

Teagasc advises sowing 25-30kg/ha of cocksfoot in the margin or a 50/50 split of cocksfoot and timothy at 25-30kg/ha.

Good establishment is essential to ensure that brome is controlled. The margin should be cut or mulched in the following May or September to encourage plants to tiller and prevent brome from going to seed. Where possible, off-takes should be removed.

The margins should not receive fertiliser or pesticides unless noxious or invasive weeds need to be treated.

Margins establish best in the summer time and a cutting in the following September can allow tillering to take place.