Controlling rushes without chemicals
Rushes can end up costing farmers a lot of money for not much result. Here are our tips for tackling them without spraying:
- Rushes usually signify problems with grassland health. A productive sward of grass will normally suppress rushes and keep them in check, and rushes only dominate land when grass is underperforming.
- The best starting point for rush control work is soil sampling and digging a soil pit. Sampling will highlight pH and nutrient conditions, and pits help to identify issues with compaction and soil structure.
- If the pH is low and the nutrients are poor, application of lime and manure can rebalance soil condition in favour of grass. Good results can be achieved by addressing soil conditions, but this is often just the first step towards success.
- Compaction is caused by a range of factors, but one of the most common is sheep’s feet. Dig a series of soil pits across your field and look for signs of compaction in the soil structure. Compaction will restrict proper drainage in grassland soils, and wet soils favour rushes over productive grass.
- You can address compaction with aerators and subsoilers, but this work needs to be carefully timed to achieve maximum success. Conditions should be dry and the soil light enough to crumble and tear, otherwise there is a risk of doing more harm than good. Some of these machines only work on deep, clean soils, and they may have limitations on crofts and rockier ground.
- Many farmers cut their rushes as part of ongoing management work. Cutting can be a useful technique for rush control, but it is rarely a cure in its own right. Studies have shown that rushes can be cut six times in a single growing season without showing any sign of lasting control, and the best use of cutting is to prepare the rushes for follow up treatments like grazing.