NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Soft rushes  (Read 2025 times)

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Soft rushes
« on: October 10, 2016, 01:36:39 pm »
Hi all,

I wonder if I can seek your collective wisdom? We are still on the hunt for a suitable place for our smallholding and viewed a possibility at the weekend. However much of the land is covered in soft rushes. For context we're talking about 280m above sea-level in the West Pennines, the land is sloping, east-facing and half-way up the valley side or more (so not stuck in the bottom). Some pictures are attached.

My reading here and elsewhere (e.g. Soil Association field labs, SAC) suggests that wet ground and acidic pH contribute to this problem and that there are a number of strategies for improving the grazing potential (I would like some sheep - most likely by primitives). But it has been hard to find out whether people have had much success starting from such a bad position or in moorland areas where it will be harder.

Walking the land it did not seem too wet - aside from around a couple of small ponds and in the ditches there was no sign of surface water and no squelching underfoot, which is something in itself for this area, although we aren't really into autumn yet. Between and underneath the clumps there seems to be some strong grass growth (although I'm not skilled enough to know which types) and there are more open areas that haven't been invaded by rush as yet. I noted a few molehills in a few areas - which suggests to me that there isn't a very high water table as otherwise their tunnels would flood and earthworms wouldn't survive - is that a reasonable interpretation?

The land used to be used to graze a few horses but has been unused for a few years by the looks of things. There are a number of other rushy fields close by too but also some better grazing with far less rush, both adjoining and within sight - that would look to have similar conditions. The older satellite images in Google Earth seem to show far less rush.

Would it be reasonable to assume that the rushes have taken advantage of undergrazing and proliferated, given that the ground conditions are always going to be favourable for them if not kept in check? If so, is it reasonable to assume that with some regular mowing/topping followed by grazing that the reeds could be kept at bay to some degree and improve the stocking potential of the land? My very inexpert guesstimate is that in the current state the stocking density probably wouldn't be able to exceed one primitive ewe (plus lambs) per acre year-round - is this about right? What would you think is potentially achievable stocking density with some mowing and grazing to reduce the reeds?

There's about 3 acres of land like this with the property, which would seriously limit sheep, if not make it completely unviable if the grazing can't be readily improved. Although there is more land that could be added it would only be worth while if it could also be improved.

How have your rush control strategies worked out? How bad was it when you began?

Thanks for any information, advice and suggestions :-)
Voss Electric Fence

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Soft rushes
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2016, 06:17:58 pm »
Cutting or spraying off the rushes is a pretty tempory solution, but does improve it a bit, as can following this with grazing. My mums improved her grazing by doing this (cutting and grazing about 8 months of the year; best to keep stock off wet ground). Her fields look much better after 6 years but really it will need to be drained, perhaps the existing land drains have silted up/perished. Very expensive to put in new drains.

The land was all like this where I grew up: 5/7 months of the year, mud everywhere. Life is a lot easier on drained ground. But then it supported Ewes and lambs and Welsh ponies OK, although foot problems and mud fever were frequent
. Maybe it'll be fine/suit you since you're planning hardy native sheep, and not a thoroughbred stud  :-J


  • Joined Apr 2015
Re: Soft rushes
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2016, 07:47:21 pm »

Sounds like you are close to in bronte country...and i too have a problem with the rushes/reeds, the same as in your pictures.

I'm about to dig a trench around my field. I have posted about this in the Land Management forum, drainage thread.

I guess you're on similar soil/clay to me. I just want to know if i need to dig the trench down in to clay...or just the soil till i get to clay.

I plan to sub-soil the entire field next.

 I have already wiped the rushes/reeds with some glycerate based weed killer...but think i need something stronger.

I may even try my own...surely watered down will work?!?!?!



  • Joined May 2015
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Soft rushes
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2016, 08:21:25 pm »
Probably a bit far away for you but maybe there's something similar running in your area... saw it and thought I'd post anyway!

Controlling rushes without chemicals – final event
Friday 28th October 2016, Aviemore
This will be the final event summarising our two-year Field Lab looking at controlling rushes without chemicals. The day will hear from several host farmers and crofters about their successes and their challenges, and highlight their top tips for success before moving on to next steps – including reseeding, grazing strategies and habitat improvement. Attendance at previous events not required.
Free of charge to farmers and land managers and £40.00 plus VAT to others. Booking is essential so that lunch and packs can be provided. Call Jane on 0131 666 2474 or email
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: Soft rushes
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2016, 07:18:33 pm »
Thanks for the thoughts and pointers :-)


  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Soft rushes
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2016, 01:30:45 pm »
Mow, graze, lime, drain.  As many of those as possible. :)  Weedkiller if you want (weedwiper) but it won't stop them coming back.



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