This year, WeedSmart Week is coming to Esperance, WA, August 17-19!
We’ll have a range of farmers and agronomists present on how the Big 6 applies to growers in the region.
The event kicks off with a forum day at the Esperance Civic Centre. On days 2 and 3, we’ll visit farms in the region to see how forward-thinking growers are implementing the Big 6 tactics to minimise the impact of herbicide resistance on their businesses.
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What’s next in the North for weed control?
Angus’ presentation focuses on the current practices for weed control in Queensland, highlighting the need for an integrated approach to weed control in order to preserve existing herbicides.
Topics covered include:
Residual chemistry – In-crop and fallow
Problem weeds moving forward
Peter discussed some of the tactics currently used for weed management in the Liverpool Plains of Northern NSW, and what the future might hold.
Topics covered include:
Current levels of resistance/tolerance in summer and winter weeds
Rotation planning/fixed rotations
Harvest weed seed control
Green-on-green technology and GPS systems
148: Regional Update – Greg Warren, Agronomist, Esperance, WA
In this edition of the Regional Update, we’re catching up with Farm and General Agronomist, Greg Warren.
Greg will be presenting at WeedSmart Week next month, so gives us a bit of a snapshot of what he’ll be focusing on. You can find out more and get your tickets here.
We also get an overview of what growers should be thinking about at the moment in terms of weed control in the region.
147: With a 450,000 ha cotton crop predicted, getting the weed control right matters
On this edition of the podcast, we’re going to chat to the Northern Grower Alliance CEO, Richard Daniel about the results they got from survey they recently did on optical spraying. Some of the results were quite surprising, especially when it came to how farmers were using the sprayers.
We also hear from Cotton Australia Chair, Hamish McIntyre. He explains why the Round-Up Ready Xtend Crop System from Bayer is so important for cotton growers. Hamish also provides some context around why ensuring the stewardship of this product is so essential.
News & Links
We’ve got a new article on kicking the herbicide habit. We look at how random weed surveys are continuing to identify an increasing trend in herbicide resistance across broadacre cropping regions in Australia. Dr Peter Boutsalis & Dr John Broster provide comment here.
Just a reminder that tickets are now able to be purchased for Esperance WeedSmart Week. The early bird price of $190 ends on July 31 and then goes up to $250 after this, so if you’re planning on going, get your tickets sooner rather than later for a discount!
You can get your tickets here.
Twitter and Facebook
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We post seasonally relevant information on weed control & promote good discussion.
You can also sign-up for our monthly blog, the WeedSmart Whip Around. Our content from the last month is featured, so it’s easy to get to all the latest news in one spot.
What strategies will rein in wild turnip in the northern region?
Although an emerging weed in the northern grain growing region, wild turnip steals crop yield and requires additional control measures that together cost over $10 million every year across Australia.
Bhagirath Chauhan, Professor in Weed Science at The University of Queensland, Gatton, says recent ecological studies have shed light on tactics that growers can use to rein in this invasive weed that could become a threat, particularly in production areas with marginal soil moisture in the northern region.
Bhagirath Chauhan, Professor in Weed Science, The University of Queensland, Gatton says if wild turnip plants are prevented from setting seed, it is possible to rapidly deplete the seedbank in a no-till system using a 6 to 12-month fallow and or competitive cropping.
“Wild turnip is considered a winter weed, but with sufficient soil moisture and mild temperatures it can also establish and set seed over summer,” he says. “Some biotypes of Brassica tournefortii have evolved resistance to chlorsulfuron, and other Group 2 [B] herbicides, first identified in South Australia in 1996.”
With investment from the GRDC, Dr Gulshan Mahajan conducted the recent studies on four biotypes collected in the northern region investigated the differences in seed dormancy, drought tolerance, effect of competition by wheat and chickpea crops, and seed persistence on the surface and at various burial depths.
“These experiments clearly demonstrated the invasive capability of wild turnip,” says Dr Chauhan. “This species can produce vast quantities of seed with variable dormancy, meaning there can be multiple germination cohorts, mainly associated with rainfall events. However, it is a poor competitor when faced with a crop such as wheat that achieves canopy closure quickly.”
‘Grow competitive crops’ is one of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics, providing season-long weed suppression and maximising the value of early weed control efforts.
How long does wild turnip seed persist in the seedbank?
In brief: Seed persists for up to 18 months on the soil surface and 5 per cent of seed was still viable after being buried at a depth of 2 cm for 30 months.
The details: Fresh seeds initially have high dormancy when placed on the soil surface. The seed coat extends dormancy of fresh wild turnip seed and light inhibits germination.
Once the seed coat has degraded somewhat, seedlings readily emerge from the surface after rainfall events, generating multiple cohorts between February and October. Emergence peaks from March to May, potentially challenging crops sown from the end of April to June.
Keeping the weed seed on the surface in a no-till system and minimising soil disturbance at planting, coupled with pre-planting knockdown, pre-emergent herbicide and vigorous early crop growth can reduce germination and weed seed production in-crop.
Germination rates of up to 14 per cent occurred when seed was buried at a depth of 2 cm in soil with sufficient moisture (>25 per cent off water holding capacity) and alternating day/night temperature of 25/15 °C.
Wild turnip seedlings did not emerge from a depth of 5 cm. A one-off deep tillage event could be an effective control tactic to bury the existing seedbank, provided there was no seedbank replenishment or subsequent tillage.
A single, large wild turnip plants can produce 10,000 seeds (left). Wild turnip can become a problematic weed in no-till systems because emergence of seeds in the surface layer is greater than for buried seeds (right).
How much seed does a wild turnip plant produce?
In brief: A wild turnip plant growing in a fallow or fenceline situation can produce around 10,000 seeds.
The details: Early emerged cohorts achieve greater plant height and shoot biomass, resulting in greater seed production than later emerged cohorts. The early emerged plants also enjoyed a longer growing season, reaching flowering stage after 87 days while later emerged plants reached flowering after only 70 days.
Although water stress (25% WHC) reduced the seed production to 3000 seeds per plant, this is still ample seed to establish an infestation capable of reducing crop yield.
Wide-row and slow growing crops such as chickpea do not inhibit wild turnip growth or seed production. On the other hand, a fast growing, dense wheat crop suppressed weed growth and seed production by 78 per cent for the early sown crop (15 May), 96 per cent for the crop sown on 5 June, and 65 per cent for the late sown crop (25 June). This reduction in seed production was achieved without the application of herbicide. The vigorous growth of the wheat crops sown on the latter two planting dates prevented wild turnip plants from producing enough seeds for re-infestation.
What is the best strategy to drive down wild turnip numbers?
In brief: Pre-plant knockdown, delayed sowing, pre-emergent herbicide and a fast growing, competitive crop.
The details: Wild turnip can, and has, become a problematic weed in no-till systems because emergence of seeds in the surface layer is greater than for buried seeds. The retention of stubble supports higher soil moisture at the soil surface, creating a favourable environment for germination over a long period. However, if emerged plants are prevented from setting seed, it is possible to rapidly deplete the seedbank in a no-till system during a 6 to 12-month fallow.
Shallow tillage may result in the buried seeds remaining viable for more than 2.5 years, with the potential for seed to be brought to the surface during subsequent planting operations, triggering the re-infestation of the paddock.
Avoid slower growing and wide-spaced crops such as chickpea in paddocks with a large wild turnip seedbank.
Advances made in weed recognition technologies
Just as Australia led the way with the development and adoption of ‘green-on-brown’ weed detection and spot spraying in fallow situations, now Australian researchers are developing technologies that will deliver ‘green-on-green’ weed recognition and targeted control in-crop.
Imagine a machine that can identify one weed species from another and apply the best treatment to each weed, even in-crop. While expert human brains can make these differentiations and decisions relatively easily, training artificial intelligence technologies to do the same thing is challenging.
With investment from GRDC, a team of researchers led by Dr Michael Walsh, director weed research at the University of Sydney, have recently completed the pilot phase of crucial work that will underpin future developments for machine learning in weed recognition.
Dr Michael Walsh, director weed research at the University of Sydney, says the WeedAI image database will underpin future developments for machine learning in weed recognition.
Dr Walsh says there are several commercial interests developing machine learning technologies for site-specific weed control in Australia, but they all need access to a collection of relevant images to essentially ‘train’ computers in the development of weed recognition algorithms that can differentiate between crop and weed plants.
“We have set out to establish protocols for collecting and annotating images that will be stored in an open-source database that anyone with commercial or academic interests can contribute to and also use for future developments in this technology,” he says. “The pilot project has centred on collecting images and developing weed recognition algorithms to detect representative grass and weed species in wheat and chickpea crops.”
The WeedAI database currently contains thousands of images of annual ryegrass and turnip weed growing in chickpea and wheat crops. These images have been manually annotated and used to develop and test weed recognition algorithms for their accuracy in correctly identifying weeds growing in-crop.
“The images are all high quality, with annotation outlining the weed shown in the image and notes about the agricultural context, such as soil colour, location, crop type, and growth stages of the crop and or weed,” he says. “We are hoping to fast-track developments and take advantage of the machine learning technologies that have capability to accurately recognise and locate in-crop weeds to ultimately provide growers with the opportunity to specifically target these weeds with a range of weed control options.”
Machine learning offers the potential for high-level accuracy in weed recognition in-crop.
“We are hopeful that this will give growers access to a range of novel chemical and non-chemical weed control technologies that will add to the existing options available for in-crop weed control. This might include herbicides that are currently too expensive for blanket spray application.”
Dr Walsh says Australia is leading the way in developing weed recognition technologies for grain production systems and he believes the open-source database will reduce replication of effort and encourage technology companies to address more challenging scenarios, such as recognition of grass weeds in cereal crops.
Like the optical spray technology that brought tractor-mounted spot spraying to fallow management over 20 years ago, the green-on-green in-crop weed recognition systems in-crop will be used for site-specific weed control in situations where weed density is already quite low.
“At densities of less than one weed per 10 square metres, the area sprayed with herbicides would be 70 to 80 per cent less than when a blanket spray is applied,” says Dr Walsh. “The opportunities to introduce different herbicide modes of action or alternate methods of weed control such as targeted tillage or laser treatment can also be considered to reduce the risk of herbicide resistance.”
Ground speed is the enemy of real-time weed recognition systems, as accuracy increases considerably with speeds slower than those currently used for blanket spraying. With increasing computing processing speeds the expectation is that in-crop weed recognition systems will be accurate at 10 to 15 km/h. The introduction of autonomous platforms is reducing the need for higher speeds, and with a light source there will be the opportunity for round-the-clock operation of weed recognition equipped site-specific weed control systems.
A number of commercial companies are bringing in-crop spot spraying to market and will be on-hand at WeedSmart Week, Esperance to showcase their technology in mid-August. Ben White, Kondinin Group’s research manager will host the machinery session with spray and harvesting gear on display including Goldacres’ G6 Crop Cruiser series 2, weed detection technologies using drones, weed identifying cameras (green on green) and a range of harvest weed seed control options including impact mills from Seed Terminator, Redekop and iHSD (both hydraulic and belt-driven) and the Emar chaff deck. This flagship event always attracts growers keen to see how other farmers are keeping weed numbers low in different systems. Early bird registration is now open.
WeedSmart podcast – Farmers can now help improve green-on-green technology
Browse the Weed-AI image database
Video of Weed-AI workshop presentations (Day 1)
Video of Weed-AI workshop presentations (Day 2)
Kicking the herbicide habit
The single cause of herbicide resistance in weeds is selection pressure through herbicide use.
Annual ryegrass leads the charge, with resistance to multiple herbicide modes of action, and demands a readjustment in weed control strategies.
Dr Peter Boutsalis of Plant Science Consulting said that the introduction of several new herbicides over recent years has provided options for controlling some resistant populations, particularly for Group 1 [A] and Group 2 [B] resistant ryegrass, but this alone will not halt resistance evolution in ryegrass populations across Australia.
“Simply changing to another mode of action when older chemistry seems less effective is not a long-term solution. Any herbicide has the ability to select for resistance, especially in a genetically diverse species such as ryegrass,” he said. “The strategy needs to centre on increasing diversity in herbicides and non-herbicide tools, not just switching from an ‘old’ herbicide to a ‘new’ one.”
In 2020, Dr Peter Boutsalis, Plant Science Consulting, was sent 83 ryegrass samples from concerned growers in NSW and the Quick Test showed 79% of individual plants that survived paddock treatments were in fact resistant to glyphosate.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation has invested in random weed surveys in different regions within New South Wales each year from 2015 to 2019. These surveys have identified differences in the pattern of resistance between regions and other states but the trend toward multiple resistance mechanisms and resistance to increasing application rates is undeniable.
Dr John Broster, Charles Sturt University said the majority of annual ryegrass populations in NSW are resistant to Group 1 [A] ‘fop’ and Group 2 [B] herbicides with some variability between the surveyed sub-regions.
The random surveys conducted in NSW from 2015 to 2019 involved the collection and testing of 608 ryegrass populations by researchers from Charles Sturt University.
To date, no populations have been found that are resistant to the newer pre-emergent herbicides, however resistance has been reported in other states.
“Of particular concern is the percentage of ryegrass populations sampled in the random survey in some sub-regions that are resistant to glyphosate,” he said. “The extent of resistance in some areas was brought home strongly in the 2020 season when many growers were confronted with significant patches of ryegrass that clearly escaped pre-seeding glyphosate applications.”
The random surveys conducted in NSW from 2015 to 2019 involved the collection and testing of 608 ryegrass populations, with the results showing 5% of these populations were resistant to glyphosate. The highest level of resistance so far was found in the 2019 results from the eastern NSW region alone, where 14% of populations were resistant to glyphosate. A population is considered resistant to a herbicide when more than 20% of the plants grown from seed collected at a single site survive applications of registered rates of the herbicide in question.
In addition to the random sampling to provide the ‘big picture’ of resistance extent, Dr Boutsalis also conducts Quick Tests when growers and agronomists experience an apparent herbicide failure. In 2020, he was sent 83 ryegrass samples from concerned growers in NSW and the Quick Test showed 79% of individual plants that survived paddock treatments were in fact resistant to glyphosate.
“This suggested that although glyphosate resistance is generally a significant contributing factor to weeds ‘escaping’ herbicide treatment in the paddock, there are potentially other forces involved as well,” said Dr Boutsalis. “Poor application technique or application onto stressed plants, incorrect timing, sampling plants that were not exposed to glyphosate, antagonistic tank mixes, inferior glyphosate formulation, poor water quality, incorrect adjuvants, or a combination of these can also result in poor weed control in the field.”
“To keep any herbicide as a long-term option it is essential that high quality products are applied correctly and that survivor plants are prevented from setting seed,” he said. “Switching products is a very short term and inadequate solution. A better strategy is to implement a diverse program of both herbicide and non-herbicide tactics and be diligent about keeping weed numbers low.”
Other than confirming resistance, herbicide testing is a powerful way to identify modes of action that a resistant population is still susceptible to. Growers who are confronted with patches of ‘survivor’ weeds this season can send live plant samples in for the Quick Test to identify herbicide options that could be used to prevent seed set in the current season. If the escapes are not seen until seed has set, seed can be collected and sent to either CSU or Plant Science Consulting for testing against a wider range of herbicides, including pre-emergent herbicides.
Testing of ‘suspect’ seed samples sent to CSU last year resulted in 30% of populations testing positive to glyphosate resistance.
Back row = glyphosate resistant biotype, Front row = susceptibleLeft to right is 1.5 L/ha, 3 L/ha, 4 L/ha Glyphosate 540.
Patch management strategies such as cutting for hay, spraying out with paraquat, or chipping can be very effective in containing a potential blow-out. The WeedSmart Big 6 strategies for integrated weed management can then be implemented to apply long-term downward pressure on weed numbers.
The WeedSmart Big 6 tactics will be the centre of discussion at WeedSmart Week in Esperance, WA in August this year. This flagship event always attracts growers from interstate keen to see how other farmers are keeping weed numbers low in different systems. Early bird registration is now open.
Causes of poor ryegrass results and paraquat and glyphosate resistance 2020 season
Resistance and susceptibility testing
Don’t sow wild oats
Ranked as the third most costly weed in Australian grain cropping, three weedy Avena spp. – wild oat, sterile oat and slender oat – are estimated to infest over two million hectares, causing crop yield losses of 114,596 t and a national revenue loss of $28.1 million.
In the southern and western regions, the main species found is wild oats (A. fatua), while in the northern region, sterile oat (A. sterilis ssp. ludoviciana) is the more problematic species. Both have evolved resistance to multiple herbicide groups in Australia.
QAAFI weed researchers Gulshan Mahajan and Bhagirath Chauhan have recently published a series of papers on their weed ecology studies of Avena spp., providing growers and agronomists with more information to use when formulating integrated management plans for these weeds in crops.
Both wild oat and sterile oat can survive in soil moisture conditions of 60 per cent water holding capacity (WHC). Sterile oat even produced seed at 40 per cent WHC.
Seedlings of these weeds can emerge from a depth of 10 cm, but greater emergence occurred from 2 and 5 cm depths. Emergence commenced at the start of winter (May) and continued until spring (October).
Early emergence plants produce the most seed, but later emergence plants can still produce enough seed to support reinfestation.
In a no-till system there is low persistence of seed on the soil surface. A 2-year assault on the weed seed bank can result in complete control of infestations.
Weed density of 15 wild oat and 16 sterile oat plants/m2 resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in wheat yield. Lower weed density (just 3 plants/m2) can still support reinfestation.
Sterile oat is a better candidate than wild oat for harvest weed seed control (HWSC).
Wild oat is best managed through early weed control (pre and post sowing) and strong crop competition.
An integrated approach to weed management can reduce Avena weed biomass by up to 90 per cent.
Experimental design features
We are summarising the finding from four related research papers:
Biological traits of six sterile oat biotypes in response to planting time. https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20507
Influence of soil moisture levels on the growth and reproductive behaviour of Avena fatua and Avena ludoviciana. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234648
Seed longevity and seedling emergence behaviour of wild oat (Avena fatua) and sterile oat (Avena sterilis ludoviciana) in response to burial depth in eastern Australia. https://doi.org/10.1017/wsc.2021.7
Interference of wild oats (Avena fatua) and sterile oats (Avena sterilis ludoviciana) in wheat. https://doi.org/10.1017/wsc.2021.25
Sterile oats growth and seed production for early and late emergence cohorts
Six biotypes of sterile oats were collected from sites in southern Qld and northern NSW and planted in field conditions at the Gatton research farm in the winter cropping seasons of 2018 and 2019. The weed seed was sown early, mid and late season and the growth and reproductive potential of the six biotypes was monitored.
Averaged across the biotypes, the early planted weeds produced 2660 seeds/plant. Weeds sow mid-season produced 21 per cent less seed and the late-season weeds produced 84 per cent less seed than the early-season plants.
Although seed production was more prolific from the early and mid season plants, the late season plants produced sufficient seed to support reinfestation the following season.
A clean seed bed and competitive crop environment is the best strategy to suppress sterile oat seed production.
Effect of moisture stress on biomass and seed production of wild oats and sterile oats
Seeds of wild oat and sterile oat used in this study were collected from Warialda, NSW, in October 2017 and multiplied at the University of Queensland, Gatton Research Farm in the winter season of 2018. The pot trial to investigate the effect of 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 per cent water holding capacity (WHC) on these two Avena weed species was conducted in 2019.
Results revealed that wild oat did not survive, and failed to produce seeds, at 20 and 40 per cent WHC. However, sterile oat survived at 40 per cent WHC and produced 54 seeds/plant, suggesting that this species is likely to compete strongly with crops in water stressed situations.
In favourable moisture conditions, both species will produce copious quantities of seed, suggesting that high infestation rates for both species may be a risk in irrigated crops.
Effect of seed burial on emergence, growth and persistence of wild oats and sterile oats
The seed longevity and emergence pattern of wild oat and sterile oat were monitored in field conditions at Gatton, Narrabri and St. George. Fresh weed seed was placed into nylon bags and buried at depths of 0, 2 and 10 cm in November 2017. Bags were exhumed at 6-month intervals over 30-months to evaluate seed germination, viability and decay.
For both species, 50 per cent of seeds at the surface and 10 cm depth had decayed within the first six months. Shallow burial (2 cm depth) of the seed increased persistence, with a significant percentage of seed being viable in the following winter cropping season.
The largest cohort of both species began to emerge at the start of the winter season (May). To ensure the seed bed is clean prior to planting, consider using tillage, herbicide application and cover crops to control this early cohort of Avena weeds. Tillage will bury seeds below their maximum depth of emergence and subsequent tillage should not be performed for 3–4 years to avoid bringing seeds back to the ‘emergence’ depth. Later emerging cohorts (through to October) will be suppressed using strong crop competition or a winter fallow if the infestation is severe.
The results of this research suggest that management strategies that can control all emerged seedlings over two years and restrict seed rain in the field could lead to complete control of weedy Avena spp. in the field.
Effect of wild oats and sterile oats infestation on wheat yield
The interference of wild oat and sterile oat in a wheat crop was examined through field studies in 2019 and 2020 at Gatton, Qld. Infestation levels of 0, 3, 6, 12, 24 and 48 plants m2 of both weed species were evaluated for their impact on wheat yield.
At an infestation level of 15 and 16 plants per m2 for wild oats and sterile oats respectively, wheat yield was halved as a result of reduced spike number per m2.
At the highest weed infestation level (48 plants per m2), wild oat and sterile oat produced a maximum of 4800 and 3970 seeds per m2, respectively. At wheat harvest, wild oat exhibited lower seed retention (17 to 39 per cent) than sterile oat (64 to 80 per cent), with most of the wild oat seeds having fallen from the seed heads before crop maturity.
The results of this study suggest that harvest weed seed control is likely to be a useful tactic in paddocks infested with sterile oat. An integrated weed management strategy that uses both chemical and nonchemical tactics is required to avoid severe crop yield loss, increased weed seed production and weed seedbank replenishment when these weed species are present.
This body of research highlights the benefits of an integrated weed management program that takes the ecology of the target weed into account.
This research was conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland, a WeedSmart scientific partner, with investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation a WeedSmart sponsor.
Mahajan, G., & Chauhan, B. (2021). Biological traits of six sterile oat biotypes in response to planting time. Agronomy Journal,113: 42-51 https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20507
Sahil , Mahajan G, Loura D, Raymont K, Chauhan BS (2020). Influence of soil moisture levels on the growth and reproductive behaviour of Avena fatua and Avena ludoviciana. PLoS ONE 15 (7): e0234648. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234648
Mahajan, G., & Chauhan, B. (2021). Seed longevity and seedling emergence behavior of wild oat (Avena fatua) and sterile oat (Avena sterilis ludoviciana) in response to burial depth in eastern Australia. Weed Science, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1017/wsc.2021.7
Mahajan, G., & Chauhan, B. (2021). Interference of Wild Oats (Avena fatua) and Sterile Oats [Avena sterilis ssp. ludoviciana (Durieu)] in Wheat. Weed Science, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1017/wsc.2021.25
WeedSmart Week goes to Esperance, WA
Growers and agronomists in each region and on each farm can adapt the WeedSmart Big 6 principles to bring more diversity to their farming system and bamboozle weeds.
Each year growers and agronomists are invited to attend WeedSmart Week, somewhere in Australia. This year the 3-day event will be held in Esperance, WA, beginning with a 1-day forum at the Civic Centre on Tuesday 17 August. The following two days will be spent touring farms in the Esperance region to see how growers are implementing the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics to minimise the impact of herbicide resistance on their businesses. The WeedSmart Week theme, ‘Diversify and Disrupt – Use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds’, says it all!
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Program leader, Lisa Mayer says the first WeedSmart Week event was held in Perth in 2016 and it’s now a highly anticipated annual event hosted by the WeedSmart program. Having now been held in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia over the last five years, this year sees the flagship event returning to Western Australia. WeedSmart Week is supported by the GRDC as the major sponsor and a wide range of herbicide and machinery companies – all with skin in the weed control game. This will be the seventh WeedSmart Week event.
“The herbicide and non-herbicide tactics that form the WeedSmart Big 6 have been researched and demonstrated in the field – we know they work,” said Ms Mayer. “Low weed seed banks underpin all profitable farming enterprises. Keeping weed numbers low and quickly regaining control of blow-outs is the sole purpose of the WeedSmart program.”
WeedSmart is committed to exploring and promoting farming systems and technologies that produce ‘more yield, fewer weeds’ every year.
WeedSmart Week brings together a wealth of knowledge and experience from local and inter-state growers, researchers, advisors and technology experts – putting the spotlight on herbicide resistance and weed management. Growers can see first hand what is and isn’t working and consider how key principles can be applied directly to their own farming operation.
At the forum and on the bus trip growers, agronomists and researchers put all the options and ideas on the table for discussion. Greg Warren from Farm and General in Esperance is one of the local agronomists assisting with the planning for 2021 WeedSmart Week. As one of the forum speakers Greg will be sharing his thoughts on the control of weeds like summer-germinating ryegrass, marshmallow, fleabane and portulaca.
He says the growers around Esperance are tackling glyphosate resistance in annual ryegrass, along with brome and barley grass and other emerging weeds using a range of integrated control tactics.
“We know we can’t take the foot off the pedal when it comes to weed control,” he says. “Growers are always assessing their options and making decisions based on good science and demonstrated benefits – and that’s what events like WeedSmart Week bring to a district.”
Greg is encouraging local growers to register their interest early and is keen to welcome growers from other regions and inter-state to look, learn and discuss tactics that work.
There will be a focus on both herbicide and non-herbicide tools and plenty of chances to see how mechanical tactics like harvest weed seed control can fit into a variety of farming systems to drive down weed numbers.
The growers, agronomists and researchers speaking and participating in expert panels at the Day 1 forum will spark important discussions about herbicide resistance and how the Big 6 tactics can be used to target the weed species and farming systems of the high rainfall zones of southern and western Australia. There’s one thing for sure – doing nothing is not an option.
Day 2 and 3 will be bus tours to farms in the Scaddan and Howick areas surrounding Esperance. The bus trips will highlight how growers in the region are implementing the Big 6 weed management tactics in a variety of farming systems and environments.
This year, Ben White, Kondinin Group’s research manager will host the very popular technology and machinery field demo, where attendees will have the opportunity to see and discuss cutting-edge innovations such as the latest sprayer and weed detection technology and a range of harvest weed seed control implements, including impact mills and chaff decks.
Register for this important 3-day event for the ‘early bird’ single ticket price of $190 (GST incl), guaranteeing a seat on both the bus tour days as well as the forum, all fully catered. Early bird price is available until 31 July, 2021.
WeedSmart is committed to the health, safety and well-being of everyone working in, and in support of, the Australian grains industry. WeedSmart Week may be postponed in response to any coronavirus outbreak, and will be held in accordance with Australian Government advice in relation to social distancing.
How does ryegrass adapt so readily to farming practices and environmental changes?
Annual and perennial species of ryegrass (Lolium spp.) are weeds of major and global significance in cropping systems. Native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America, these species have been transported, mostly as pasture plants, turf, cover crops and as contaminants in crop seed, feed grain and hay, to all grain production areas of the world.
Dr Chris Preston, Professor, Weed Management at The University of Adelaide, says perennial ryegrass, Italian ryegrass and rigid ryegrass can be difficult to distinguish and have the ability to interbreed – giving the species increased invasive powers.
Dr Chris Preston, Professor, Weed Management at The University of Adelaide, says that unlike some other weed species, ryegrass populations adapt to new environments very quickly.
“The genetic diversity of the ryegrass species has seen populations adapt very quickly to altered environments,” he says. “The most widely researched adaptations have been those associated with herbicide resistance, but we are also seeing many other examples of ryegrass evading cultural controls, adapting to new farming systems and extending its geographical and climatic range.”
Previously considered a weed of southern farming systems with Mediterranean climates and winter dominant rainfall, ryegrass is becoming increasingly common in more northernly locations with summer dominant rainfall patterns.
“Unlike some other weed species, ryegrass populations adapt to the new environment very quickly,” says Chris. “The extensive genetic diversity means populations can readily adapt to new environments and stresses. This is aided by ‘new arrivals’ that may bring new adaptations, such as seed dormancy or herbicide resistance, which have evolved elsewhere.”
Ryegrass is a dramatic example of why the WeedSmart Big 6 approach is so important – adding diversity to farming systems, both within and between seasons. There is no ‘set and forget’ integrated weed management system – every season needs to present this super-weed with a fresh challenge.
What is the best way to keep ahead of ryegrass blow-outs?
In brief: Longer and more diverse rotations.
The details: Short rotations are very easy for weeds like ryegrass to adapt to. This is seen in its ability to adapt to multiple herbicide modes of action and also to make definite shifts in the population’s phenology.
If a tight rotation has been in place for 10 or 20 years it’s definitely time to look for alternatives. Adaptive species like ryegrass will start to respond to repeated practices (herbicide and cultural) that are applied for four or five years in a row.
In a tight rotation, ryegrass can evolve resistance to early sowing in a no till system through seed dormancy, or resistance to harvest weed seed control through early shedding of seed. Each agricultural practice is in fact applying selection pressure – the only solution is to frequently alter the type of selection.
The worst thing you can do is to keep doing the same thing. If you are limited in crop choice, then consider changing other practices used regularly within each crop.
In short rotations, annual ryegrass can rapidly evolve to evade routine practices.
Why is it important to have diverse crop rotations?
In brief: To keep ahead of adaptation through seed dormancy.
The details: Pre-emergent herbicides have become an important part of a diverse herbicide program for ryegrass control. Ryegrass can and will evolve resistance to specific pre-emergent herbicide modes of action, but it can and will also adapt mechanisms to avoid pre-emergent herbicide activity, such as through altered seed dormancy.
If the pre-emergent herbicide is applied at the same time each season it will not be long before the dominant population is germinating later in the season, having not interacted with the herbicide at all.
In this situation, there is an even greater need for the crop to be highly competitive by the time the more dormant seeds germinate, to suppress weed growth and seed production.
Rotating to pasture or to crops sown later will disrupt the selection for increased dormancy.
Again, maximising the diversity in the crop rotation is the foundation of an effective integrated weed management program.
Are there things I should do every year?
In brief: All the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics need to be applied as often as possible.
The details: But there needs to be diversity within years as well. For example, harvest weed seed control is recommended for all paddocks, every year – so the diversity needs to come through other tactics, such as rotating crops and rotating herbicides.
Just as with herbicides, harvest weed seed control alone will not provide long term control of ryegrass.
Review: evolutionary drivers of agricultural adaptation in Lolium spp., Maor Matzrafi, Christopher Preston and Caio Augusto Brunharo, 2021, Pest Management Science
Remove the fetters from crops and they’ll trample the weeds
Weeds can exploit situations where crops fail to germinate or grow less vigorously. This does not usually mean that the weeds prefer soils that have constraints such as acidity, compaction or low nutrition status.
While crop responses to changes in soil pH are extensively researched, there is far less research available that quantifies the impact of the amelioration of soil acidity on weed growth.
Gauz Azam and Catherine Borger
To help fill this knowledge gap, research scientists Catherine Borger, Gaus Azam, Chris Gazey, Andrew van Burgel and Craig Scanlan from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD), have recently published the results from long-term studies measuring the impact of ameliorating soil acidity on the growth of annual (rigid) ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) in wheat.
In acidic soils, the application of lime increases soil pH and improves the crop’s competitive ability against annual ryegrass.
Lime applications increase initial growth of both wheat and ryegrass.
The application of lime in previous years reduced ryegrass density, biomass, and seed production in wheat crops in 2018.
Lime increased wheat tiller number and, at one location, increased yield.
Crop and weed establishment may be poor in the season following soil amelioration. The crop often ‘catches up’ later in the season.
Reacidification is common. An ongoing liming program is likely to be required to maintain the competitive edge of crops over weeds such as annual ryegrass.
Most crops and pastures grow best in soils with a pH between 5.5 and 8, but some crops, such as barley, are more sensitive to soil pH than others. Similarly, some weeds are able to grow in hostile environments but will often grow better when the pH is in the optimal range for crop growth. For example, annual ryegrass competes very strongly with wheat in low pH soils, but actually grows best in the same pH range as crops. On the other hand, there is some evidence that wild radish prefers acidic soils.
Identifying soil constraints can involve detailed investigations and there are commonly multiple constraints at play. With approximately half of the agricultural soils in Australia having a surface pH of 5.5 or less, this constraint alone can be responsible for significant yield loss. Conversely, South Australian farmers are more likely to have to contend with high pH soil constraints, with 60 per cent of agricultural soils in that state being highly alkaline.
Experimental design features
These experiments were conducted at field sites in the Merredin and Wongan Hills shires in Western Australia. The scope of this research included two experiments:
A field experiment was conducted from 2016 to 2018 at DPIRD’s Merredin Research Facility on naturally acidic soil to investigate the effect of crop rotation (continuous wheat and wheat–chemical fallow), lime incorporation (nil and to 15 cm) and lime rate (0, 2, 4 and 6 t/ha). Wheat and annual ryegrass production was measured in the 2018 season.
A field experiment at DPIRD’s Wongan Hills Research Facility was established in 1994 on soil with low pH as a result of agricultural practices. The trial investigated the long-term effect of lime rate (0, 0.5, 1, 2 and 4 t/ha applied in 1994) and top-up applications of 0 or 1.5 t/ha in 1998 and 0 or 3 t/ha in 2014. In 2018 soil was cultivated to a depth of 0, 15 or 25 cm prior to seeding. Wheat and annual ryegrass production was measured in the 2018 season.
Crop rotation and lime at Merredin
Within the continuous wheat rotation at Merredin, increasing rates of lime increased surface soil pH (0–5 cm) from 4.9 to 6.0 and pH at depth (10–15 cm) from 4.3 to 4.7 with no incorporation. Increasing rates of lime reduced density, biomass, and seed production of ryegrass and increased wheat tiller number and yield.
Incorporation of lime had no significant effect on wheat yield or ryegrass biomass, even though incorporation increased pH at depth (10–15 cm) from 4.2 to 5.1.
A wheat-fallow rotation reduced ryegrass density, biomass and seed production and increased yield compared to the continuous wheat system. Lime rate and incorporation within the wheat-fallow system increased soil pH (0–5 cm) from 4.9 to 5.8, but had no effect on ryegrass due to uniformly low weed pressure. Fallowing is a very effective weed control measure, but is unlikely to be a profitable option unless weed pressure is very high.
Long-term effects of lime application at Wongan Hills
Cumulative lime application at the Wongan Hills site increased soil pH from 5.6 to 6.4 (0–10 cm), 4.6 to 5.4 (10–20 cm), and 4.1 to 4.9 (20–30 cm).
Lime applications in 1994 and 2014 had long-lasting impact on weed growth, resulting in reduced ryegrass density, biomass and seed production in the 2018 crop. The lower rates applied in 1998 had no significant impact on ryegrass density and seed production.
Wheat density was not affected by lime, but tiller number increased with increasing rates of lime applied in 1994 and 2014. The slight increase to wheat yield following application of lime was not significant and incorporation of lime in 2018 did not affect ryegrass or wheat production.
Deep tillage increased pH at depth (20–30 cm) from 4.2 to 5.2. The interaction between lime application in 2014 and incorporation of lime in 2018 was significant for ryegrass, with weed density, biomass and seed production decreasing with increasing depth of tillage in those plots where lime was not applied in 2014 (0 t/ha treatment). Deep tillage did not significantly affect ryegrass in plots where 3 t/ha of lime was applied in 2014, as ryegrass density was already very low across all tillage treatments. By 2018, the lime applied in 2014 had already done the heavy lifting in terms of reducing weed pressure in the 3 t/ha plots.
Applying and incorporating lime is the best way to increase the pH of acidic soils, but it usually takes several years before a surface lime application has a measurable effect on soil pH at depth. Incorporation is the best way to speed up the process and also releases other soil nutrients to boost crop growth.
By default, the incorporation of lime by tillage or inversion also buries weed seed, placing at least a portion of the seed bank deeper in the soil profile and prohibiting germination. Annual ryegrass seed has optimal emergence from a depth of 1 or 2 cm. Emergence reduces with increasing depth and ryegrass does not emerge from depths of 10 cm or more. Even when buried, some seed can remain viable and emerge if the next sowing operation brings the seed back near the soil surface.
This trial work confirms the importance of crop competition in a diverse weed control program. Addressing soil constraints, such as low pH (and the associated aluminium toxicity), enables the crop to compete strongly with weeds such as annual ryegrass – reducing weed growth and seed production.
This research was conducted by researchers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia and was supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, a WeedSmart financial partner, through the Soil Constraints Initiative—Innovative Approaches to Managing Subsoil Acidity (DAW00252) project.
Borger CPD, Azam G, Gazey C, van Burgel A, Scanlan CA (2020) Ameliorating soil acidity–reduced growth of rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) in wheat. Weed Sci. 68: 426–433. doi: 10.1017/wsc.2020.38
Central NSW growers investigate IWM options
Having completed a two-year demonstration of chaff decks with investment from the GRDC, Tim, along with cropping officers from adjacent LLS regions, are capitalising on the interest in integrated weed management tactics to counter the insidious rise of herbicide resistance in weeds.
“Annual ryegrass is one of the main weeds causing growers concern in-crop,” he said. “There is known resistance to Group 1 [A] and 2 [B] herbicides, and there are strong indications that glyphosate resistance is evolving on some farms.”
Tim Bartimote, Local Land Services (LLS) in Dubbo, says many grain growers in the Central West region of NSW are keen to see the benefits of integrated weed management tactics demonstrated in their area.
Harvest weed seed control has been commonly practiced in the region for many years, primarily as narrow windrow burning or simply broadacre stubble burning. Tim says there is a definite shift in interest toward technologies such as impact mills, although the price of these machines is a barrier to immediate and wide-spread adoption.
“Through discussions with grower groups we found that a few growers had moved into using chaff decks and chaff-lining, but these options were not well-known to others in the area,” says Tim. “We decided to demonstrate chaff decks, which are less expensive than impact mills and are well-suited to the controlled traffic systems used on a few properties in the region.”
The two growers who demonstrated the use of chaff deck systems both identified resistant ryegrass as their main weed target for harvest weed seed control.
“At the demonstration site at Parkes, the ryegrass population was evenly spread across the paddock at a density of 26 plants per metre square,” says Tim. “For the purposes of monitoring the effect of the chaff deck operation, we chose four sites within the paddock and found 4, 19 and 9 plants per m2 away from the wheeltracks and 68 plants per m2 on the wheeltracks.”
“This clearly demonstrated the shift of ryegrass seed from being spread across the paddock to being concentrated on the wheeltracks where seedlings can be controlled with other tactics as required.”
Chaff decks help concentrate the weed seed onto the wheel tracks during harvest.
At the second site, near Gilgandra, the weed population was found concentrated in patches. Tim and the grower, Daniel Volkofsky, GPS-marked sites within the paddock following the 2020 harvest and will monitor the shift in weed density over the next few years.
The growers used both commercial and home-made chaff deck systems in the demonstrations and found both options were effective. In addition to the traditional use of HWSC in winter crops, Daniel also tried using his chaff decks in a sorghum crop but ran into trouble with blockages on the leading edge of the baffle plate. Some growers have added cameras to help monitor stubble flow over the baffle plate and pre-empt blockages.
Tim says the LLS team wants to achieve a ‘weed management legacy’ from the investment of GRDC funds in the region.
“One of the outcomes of the GRDC-funded project was to build a network of growers with experience using different tactics in their integrated weed management programs,” says Tim. “We are now able to direct interested growers to speak to and visit growers in their region who can talk to them about what they have tried and what has worked well for them.”
“Some of the growers who have manufactured various harvest weed seed control devices on farm are willing to share their low-cost designs with others who are not ready to invest in the commercial models. There is also a pool of experience when it comes to the modifications to baffles and chutes required for different header makes and models.”
HWSC is one of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics that under pin integrated weed management programs across Australia. Within each of the tactics growers are implementing a range of different methods that suit their own systems to keep weed numbers low.
Tim says they are capitalising on the interest generated through the project to now test and compare the efficacy of a range of pre-emergent herbicides on the market.
WeedSmart podcast with Tim Bartimote