Ben Taylor-Davies - ‘Maximising the use of stale seedbeds in a profitable combinable crop rotation in the presence of resistant blackgrass’.
I grew up on the family farm in Herefordshire before travelling to Liverpool University to broaden my horizons and study Geography. It was during this time that it was decided the family farm, running very efficiently, would not require any extra help for the medium term and I began my career in Agronomy, which combined my love of farming and scientific geography. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of Agronomy, and the challenges that it poses on an almost daily basis, coupled with the responsibility of each farm to protect the environment. My job has evolved through much training, from the traditional pesticide salesman to an environmental enhancement advisor - through which I get great pleasure watching vulnerable species make a comeback and often thrive alongside modern agriculture.
I have always been a keen rugby player, but age and injuries seem to have got the better of me and I am now the manager of Ross-on-Wye Ladies rugby team, which provides some of the most fantastic rewards I have experienced on the rugby field and I enjoy it enormously.
My wife Helen and three children Tegan, Erin and Jobe, have had a bit of a torrid 3 years after our youngest Jobe was kicked in the head by a horse. After spending 3 weeks in a coma at Birmingham children’s hospital and then a further 2 months on the neurological ward he fortunately survived. We have dedicated a lot of free time to fundraising for Birmingham children's Hospital, the Midlands air ambulance and lately Megan Baker house where Jobe continues his rehabilitation - to date raising in excess of £300,000.00.
As a family we enjoy the syndicate shoot that we run on the farm, travelling and when time allows, water sports in Pembrokeshire. I have recently invested in a pair of Suffolk punches in order to enjoy time with the rest of the family, who like nothing more than riding their horses and ponies through the beautiful Wye valley where we live - however my horses will be pulling carts and various implements rather than riding which just doesn’t seem to be my thing!
I am extremely grateful to the AHDB and the Three Counties AgricultureSociety for their generosity as my sponsors, without whom this study tour would not be possible.
I believe the greatest threat to British agriculture is that of resistant blackgrass. It could almost be described as the ‘perfect’ weed; it produces large amounts of seeds, can grow in all soil conditions, is adaptable in all crops and at any time of year, competes better than most UK crops for light, moisture and nutrients, it releases it’s seeds prior to harvest and those seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years, it spreads across boundaries easily and is able to develop resistance to most known herbicides at an alarming rate. This has resulted in drastic action by farmers in the worst affected areas, which coupled with a reduction in produce prices has led to many farms becoming economically unsustainable, with the problem only becoming worse in the future.
My study will look at the period between harvest and the following crop establishment, with the aim of establishing the most effective methodology to establish the greatest reduction in viable seeds. With an analysis of the mechanical, environmental and total herbicide techniques employed in other parts of the world, data gathered will help identify key factors in utilising the three different techniques, with a view to developing a model to use for successfully combating herbicide resistant weeds. I intend to travel to Australia, Brazil, Argentina, USA and South Africa as well as parts of Europe to learn how problems with herbicide resistant weeds are being tackled on a global scale.