Press Release

Smart farming technology to tackle UK farming’s invasive Black-grass problem


  • Black-grass weed significantly reduces wheat crop yields, costing farmers’ money and impacting the UK’s agricultural economy
  • Tech and digital farming companies will work with strategic partners to develop a solution
  • Technology will include sprayers, cameras, data analysis with AI, and a digital platform to map and monitor black-grass growth across a three-year period

A team of experts from Bosch, BASF Digital Farming, Chafer Machinery and Rothamsted Research will use precision farming technology and artificial intelligence to help reduce the persistent problem of black-grass in UK farms. Black-grass (alopecurus myosuroides) is a weed that inhibits the growth of wheat crop, reducing its yield and therefore damaging the productivity of farms. 


It is one of the biggest challenges facing farmers in the UK today and it is threatening the sustainability of UK cereal production. It is estimated that the weed is responsible for annual wheat losses of up to 800,000 tons, with associated economic losses of approximately £400 million*.


Bosch is the lead partner in the research and development (R&D) project consortium, which comprises recognised experts from BASF Digital Farming, Chafer Machinery, and Rothamsted Research. Together they have been awarded a grant of £1,452,614 from DEFRA and Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, under the Farming Innovation Programme – Small R&D Partnership Projects. 


Each partner brings unique expertise: Bosch is one of the leading companies for sensor and software technologies and will steer the project in collaboration with digital agriculture specialists BASF Digital Farming and sprayer manufacturer Chafer Machinery. Together they will be supported and guided by the input of renowned academic experts in black-grass from Rothamsted Research.




Technical details

Using the Bosch Smart Spraying camera technology and software, Chafer will design innovative boom sprayers to detect, identify and map black-grass at different growth stages within cereal crops across a farm. The smart sprayer technology will be tested on commercial farms selected from the Rothamsted Black-Grass Research Initiative (BGRI). 


Agronomists from Rothamsted will label the images and will support Bosch in training algorithms to recognise black-grass in cereal crops. This information is then processed and analysed by BASF Digital Farming and delivered to its advanced xarvio Digital Farming Solutions crop optimization platform. In the platform, the information will be used to map infield populations to support the development of integrated weed management plans for targeted black-grass control.


Overall, the persistent problem of black-grass should reduce in severity and the ambition is, with enhanced mapping, to improve sustainable black-grass management programmes. 


Additionally, beside a superior performance in black-grass control, the project could result in reduced herbicide volumes sprayed in-field. This 

would minimise unintended direct consequences on other organisms and reduce the potential for leaching into other vulnerable ecosystems, such as waterways.


Partnership information

Bharath Jayakumar, Innovation Lead at Bosch UK, said: “At Bosch we’re constantly looking for solutions to the challenges people face and it’s particularly exciting when we see a way to develop new technologies to solve a problem. We believe our sensor, software and AI technology can make a difference for UK farmers and will help them to target black-grass better in their fields.”


Daniel Ebersold, Head of Digital Farming Project House (Smart Machinery), BASF Digital Farming, said: “We are committed to helping UK farmers optimize crop production. By working together on this important project our shared aim is to find an innovative solution using smart farming technologies, agronomic expertise and artificial intelligence that will measurably reduce the impact of black-grass infestation over time.”


Rob Starkey, Managing Director, Chafer Machinery, said: “Integrating innovative technology to maximise the efficiency and accuracy of herbicide application is a key part of Chafer’s strategy to help UK arable farms increase productivity and reduce unnecessary impact on the environment. The Smart Sprayer project is a unique opportunity, working with leading industry partners, to contribute to the development of cutting-edge technology which will help solve the UK black-grass problem”.


David Comont, Rothamsted Research, said: “Black-grass has become the UK’s most pressing weed problem, resulting in considerable wheat yield losses annually and causing ever-increasing herbicide use as farmers attempt to control this species. Developing “smarter” systems which can automatically monitor and more precisely spray this weed has the potential to maximise control, whilst reducing both herbicide use and costs to farmers.”


The funding was awarded as part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme and the UKRI Transforming Food Production challenge.