The bar­ley grass blight

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

I’VE BEEN BLESSED with a few emails from NZ Life­style Block read­ers over the last month. Keep them coming folks – my wife says I need them to feed my ravenous ego – as I’m only too happy to help out with any ques­tions you have on weeds, fer­tiliser, agri­chem­i­cals and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

A cou­ple of the emails asked about bar­ley grass, a weed that is near and dear to me. It’s one of the first weeds I got to grips with when I started in the agron­omy in­dus­try and I can’t wait to share my pearls of wis­dom.

Bar­ley grass is a nasty lit­tle pest that is found in most parts of the coun­try but it’s worst in the Hawke’s Bay and the dryer ar­eas of the South Is­land. It is an an­nual grass that ger­mi­nates in the au­tumn and early win­ter and sets seed in the sum­mer months.

There are six dif­fer­ent species of bar­ley grass present in New Zealand, but they all look very sim­i­lar and can all be treated as one species. Dur­ing its veg­e­ta­tive growth stage bar­ley grass looks like an off-colour (less green) grass plant that tends to form a dense, car­pet-like sward. For a brief pe­riod of time this veg­e­ta­tive growth will be palat­able to stock but pretty soon into spring they will be­gin to avoid it like the plague.

Dur­ing sum­mer bar­ley grass puts out its very recog­nis­able seed head cov­ered in lots of lit­tle awns. As one of my sons tells me, they look like lit­tle tooth­brushes. These ma­ture quickly and the seed they drop has a very high level of ger­mi­na­tion (90%+) which ex­plains why bar­ley grass can spread so quickly.

The pres­ence of bar­ley grass in a pad­dock is bad for two rea­sons. One, it’s a rub­bish grass and it takes over space that could be used to grow good grass. The sec­ond rea­son is even nas­tier: when the bar­ley grass seeds ma­ture their awns harden and be­come quite sharp. These seeds with a spear start get­ting stuck in ev­ery­thing like the eyes and mouths of graz­ing stock, their wool (which re­duces its qual­ity), your socks and sub­se­quently your legs, to name a few places I’ve found them.

How to con­trol it

Thank­fully bar­ley grass is quite easy to con­trol so long as you are will­ing to take the time and plan out your ap­proach thought­fully. It is pos­si­ble to use glyphosate to spot-spray bar­ley grass but this doesn’t take care of the sub­se­quent ger­mi­na­tion and can do a fair amount of dam­age to the sur­round­ing pas­ture.

The best prod­uct to use is etho­fume­sate (prod­uct name Nortron). It is ap­plied to the bar­ley grass when it is veg­e­ta­tive but be­fore the seed head has be­gun to de­velop. This tim­ing tends to be from late May through to early Au­gust de­pend­ing on the area. This kills the bar­ley grass that is there, but it also has a resid­ual ef­fect that can fin­ish off the next flush of ger­mi­nat­ing seeds.

The only real prob­lem with this method is re­mem­ber­ing where the bar­ley grass patches are. The best thing to do is pop out in the sum­mer and stake out the ar­eas with bar­ley grass so you can remember where they are when spray­ing them in the win­ter.

Phil Mccabe and his part­ner Ber­nadette Gavin had been eye­ing the most ex­pen­sive prop­erty in Raglan, perched high above Manu Bay, with its breath-tak­ing panoramic views to the Tas­man Sea.

It was on hol­i­day in 2002 in Aus­tralia that Phil had an idea on how to get it. While Ber­nadette walked the beach, Phil drove to the other end.

“By the time she got there I had fig­ured out how to make it hap­pen.”

The cou­ple re­turned to Raglan and that Septem­ber took own­er­ship of Raglan Wagon Cabins, a fairly run-down back­packer prop­erty and its 17 train cars, two cot­tages and a man­ager’s res­i­dence.

The new life­style ap­pealed. It was a lot eas­ier giv­ing peo­ple a key and say­ing ‘good­night!’ than the work Phil had cut his teeth on as an 18-year-old run­ning his fam­ily’s restau­rants.

“I was just 31 and Ber­nadette was 30 and peo­ple said, ‘You guys own this?’”

Four­teen years on, the ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions have ex­panded to in­clude an eco-bach, an eco-camp and the big­gest earth-bag build­ings in New Zealand. The orig­i­nal home is now a modern re­cep­tion area with mas­sage yoga room, café and con­fer­ence rooms, all built with nat­u­ral

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