August 2023 – Hub Site Update
The weather was a mixed bag for August. Generally warm and wet – very windy on several days.
Observations from the different plant plots
- The Alder growth seems to have slowed down (but still looks healthy)
- The Black locust Turbo plants are growing well and getting bushy.
- The Black Locust ‘Turbo Obelisk’ plants have started to appear!
- SRF Poplar is growing well, and getting really tall.
- SRF Eucalyptus Denticulata is growing tall. Other varieties growing well but not as tall. Some side shoots were poked back into the guards
- Our SRC Poplar Growing well, generally healthy.
- The SRC Willow is growing fast and very tall! A couple of caterpillars spotted, but no extensive damage was observed. We will keep an eye on it.
- The Miscanthus MxG is getting very tall. We were advised that spraying would risk damage to the miscanthus. Fortunately the fat hen starting to die back naturally
- Miscanthus Athena – Some plants are growing tall (knee height), more plants are appearing daily.
- Glyphosate is required on the grasses demo plots; it is on the action plan.
- In general Fat hen and charlock the main weeds and we have not seen any obvious major pests or diseases (other than those stated)
Operational processes undertaken. (Spraying, Topping, Fencing)
- Electric fencing still to be put up after tractor operations have stopped.
- Strimming and spraying have been ongoing to control weeds.
- Fat Hen is prolific across whole site. Corridors and paths have been topped (still to be sprayed). Inter-row strimming and spraying is ongoing.
- Although it has been quite wet, strimming and hand weeding has still been performed
- Some escaped cows from the other farm have trampled through. A couple of the SRF poplar were damaged, but the team managed to rescue them. One or two may have been trampled beyond repair.
- Post emergence sprays have been applied to the miscanthus areas:
- None to MxG (it was too tall – didn’t want to risk damage to the crop)
- Athena will have Metsulfuron methyl and MCPA applied ASAP.
- Herbidome has been used for interrow spraying.
Hub Site Visit to Auchincruive
The Biomass Connect Hub Site Coordinators from Rothamsted Research paid a visit on 2nd August. The following are extracts from their report: (Note, some of the recommendations below have now been carried out during August by the team at SRUC Ayrshire).
It was great to have an excuse for a trip to Scotland and visit the Biomass Connect site hosted by SRUC in Auchincruive, just outside Ayr in Scotland on the 2nd of August 2023. Planting had been undertaken over the last few months so it was interesting to see how the crops were doing after some extremes in weather conditions that had been felt in May, June, and July.
The Eucalyptus plug plants were planted on the 8th of May, with tree guards being put on the following day. Overall, establishment among the Eucalyptus varieties looked good. Some varieties appeared to have had better growth rates than others but that is to be expected with some going to fair better in some parts of the UK than others. The ongoing problem across all sites seen to date is weed control.
As the picture above highlights, the weeds are big! The Team at SRUC have been inter-row strimming. The idea is to get the weeds down to a certain height, before applying the herbicide Glysophate with the Micron Herbidome which has been purchased and has had success with weed kills in other SRF plots that will be visible in later photos.
The trimming is underway and hopefully weather conditions will allow an herbicide application in a week or two that will help suppress the weeds. The team are also keeping an eye out for any of the ‘Leader’ branches from the plants bursting through the mesh tree guard.
The SRF Poplar were planted on the 13th of April. Having revisited a few of the Hub sites post planting and seeing update photos, the SRF Poplar is really proving to be the ‘success story’! Plants are looking good here in Ayrshire. No signs of grazing from pests. They even survived a visit from a herd of cows that had got into the Biomass Connect site. The weeds do not seem to be affecting general growth of the poplar rods.
Black Locust ‘Turbo Obelisk’
The ‘Turbo Obelisk’ variety of the Black Locust appears to be struggling and might benefit from a hand weed around the immediate plant.
The plants that have established look good, and it does seem to be like this across the sites. Some have not emerged yet but we have been advised by the supplier not to give up on the plugs just yet. Weed removal will certainly help with the plant growing and emerging if they still appear to be dormant.
Strimming and then Herbidome herbicide application would be the way to go with these but only if the operator is comfortable in using them.
Black Locust ‘Turbo’
Observations from either Hub Site managers, or from site visits by the hub site coordinators, have shown the ‘Turbo’ variety of Black Locust to have had a much better establishment and growth rate. This maybe because of the drought conditions experienced after planting, these bare-root stock had significantly larger roots compared to the ‘Turbo Obelisk’. The plants all look healthy and have a good establishment rate. These were all planted on the 13th of April using the Auger method due to the large root size.
Ongoing weed management and control will be necessary during the growing months. Also, keep an eye out for any leaf damage from insects that has been reported from the other sites.
SRF Common Alder
The Alder makes up the third and final element to the demo SRF plot. Again, these were planted on the 13th of April, using the T-notch technique for bare-root saplings. The trees look good and are growing nicely. Again, it is really pleasing to see that the strimmer and Herbidome have been used to control weeds. The establishment rate looks high.
SRC willow 0.5 ha area
The willow area has established well. We need to follow up to see if Pre-Em’s were applied post planting, but judging by the weeds, they may not have been. The area does have a high annual average rainfall so it may have not been possible to get machinery on.
The inter rows could really benefit from a strim and a sweep of the Herbidome to knock back the weeds. There are some large Fat Hen and thistles that would benefit from being removed by hand prior to a strim, as the strimmer may struggle with the size of them. Docks and nettles and thistles should be carefully spot treated with the Herbidome as they can be bad if allowed to seed and multiply throughout the plot.
The SRC Poplar was planted on the 1st and 2nd of May. However, the team had to finish planting on the 10th of May due to one bix of cuttings being lost in transit by the courier. Generally, the establishment looks good, but the plants do look smaller in comparison to some other sites. The dry May and June may have had an impact on their size.
Weed control is good. Glyphosate has been applied within the rows judging by the weeds browning off. It will be worth going over these rows again as there are still some green weeds that suggests the odd spray miss, but overall, weed kill looks good.
There is potentially some hare damage to the small Poplar trees. SRUC have been supplied electric fencing for both sites but it had been taken down to allow Tractor topping of the surrounds and will be going back up once completed.
Miscanthus Giganteus 0.5 ha area
The Miscanthus Giganteus looked to be in good health and was a nice height. However, the Fat Hen is equally impressive in height.
SRUC Ayrshire have been in contact with the IBERS Hub Site for herbicide advice. The Fat Hen was of such a size that it may be best to let it die off naturally and deal with in the new growth in the spring. The team are also trying to control the surrounds.
Miscanthus Athena 0.5 ha area
The area was planted in the first week of July. Establishment did not look great, and it’s been pretty much a calendar month that it has been in the ground.