Biology of Docks
There are over 200 species of docks worldwide, with 12 species in Ireland. The two most common and most damaging are:
The problem with docks in grassland is that they are well adapted to modern farming techniques. They germinate throughout the year and grow from seed as well as root stocks. They compete strongly with the grass but have only 65% of the feed value of grass. They are also unpalatable to stock.
Docks are ideally suited to the conditions created in intensively managed grassland and particularly cattle regimes. Ideal conditions for grass growth are also ideal for docks: moist, fertile soils with moderate to high levels of nitrogen.
Dock and chickweed seeds can pass undamaged through silage, the stocks’ digestive system and slurry. They are therefore spread very effectively by modern farming practices.
In the slurry the seeds are effectively coated in nutrient ready to germinate and grow.
Lax/open swards resulting from poaching, over-grazing, winter kill, pest damage and lack of tillering in shorter term leys all provide space for seeds to germinate and become established.