Growing a successful game cover plot often requires more skill, planning, preparation and diligence than a conventional farm crop on a field scale. It is often said that is it easier to grow 20 acre block of game crop than 2 acres.
Pests can wreak havoc on a small plot and probably the biggest single threat is pigeons. Deployment of gas bangers, predator kites and reflective CD discs strung up in lines can keep them off. The main objective is to get the crop safely through the vulnerable growth stages just post establishment. Once the crop is tall enough the pigeons shouldn’t harm it too much. Rabbits, hares and deer also pose serious threats to small plots of game cover and other than suitable fencing each estate or shoot will have different ways of dealing with these appropriately.
The most frequently encountered disease in game cover is clubroot. This is a soil borne fungal disease caused by growing brassicas in plots too frequently and without sufficient rotational break. This disease can be overcome by growing clubroot resistant varieties such as Caledonian kale and Sparta forage rape. Alternatively the game cover plot requires a break from brassicas for a minimum of 7 years.
The application of herbicides on game cover to control weeds is complicated by the fact that most game cover is multi-cropping. The most common method of weed control involves stale seedbed techniques. This involves cultivating and preparing the ground to get the weed seeds to germinate then spraying off with glyphosate. If time allows this procedure can be repeated until the weed burden is satisfactorily reduced. A key factor to successful stale seedbed techniques is to sow the game cover crop with the absolute minimum of soil disturbance in order to avoid exposing too much fresh soil from which more weed seeds can germinate.
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