Make winning the battle against crop weeds simple and easy to follow.
- Use double break crops, fallow and pasture phases
- Follow glyphosate with a high rate of paraquat
- Rotate and mix herbicide groups
- Use your crop to compete with your weeds
- Never miss the opportunity to stop seed set
- Capture weed seed survivors at harvest
Latest ResourcesView all
Regional Update – Ben Webb, Kojonup, WA
WA farmer Ben Webb joins us on the Regional Update to give us an update on how his year is panning out. He gives some insights into how he’s gone using chaff carts and talks about a few other novel approaches he uses on his farm. If you’d like to find out more about Ben’s farming system, you can check out the case study on him we did here.
How to make the right decision on using Group Gs in the Northern cropping system
Group Gs have a place in northern cropping systems both in summer and winter crop scenarios. We ask Andrew Somervaille to explain Group G use in both systems and the most optimum use of different Group G products given the range of seasonal conditions in the northern cropping region.
Voraxor crash course and why you might consider a double paraquat knockdown
On this week’s podcast we take a look at a different approach to double knocks. WA-based Farmanco agronomist, Mark Lawrence (pictured) shares with us the benefits of double paraquat and other strategies his clients in the medium to high rainfall zone in WA’s south west region are using. We also find out more about BASF’s new Group G herbicide, Voraxor. BASF Technical Development Manager Ian Francis joins us to tell us more about their new Group G pre-emergent broadleaf weed herbicide and how it can fit into farming systems. BASF Technical Development Manager Ian Francis ____________________________________________________________ Podcast presenters: Jessica Strauss & Peter Newman Podcast producer: Jessica Strauss
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How can I be certain that herbicide residues in the soil have fully degraded at planting?
In the course of a chemical fallow there are often several applications of herbicide and some residues may still be present on or near the soil surface when it is time to plant the next crop. In particularly dry years, residues may even carryover from the crop prior to the fallow. NSW Department of Primary Industries soil scientist, Dr Mick Rose, says there has been concern in recent years about the effect these residues may have on soil microbial activity and on the establishment and growth of crops following the fallow, even after the plant back period. Dr Mick Rose, DPI NSW soils researcher, is developing tests and predictive models to support growers in their decisions about crop choice after using residual herbicides. (Photo: GRDC). “Glyphosate has been the most commonly used knockdown herbicide in northern fallows for several decades and more recently growers have been looking to use more diverse programs that include chemicals with residual activity on weeds,” he says. “The increased use of imazapic and diuron have been of most concern to growers when choosing the next crop, particularly after a low rainfall fallow period.” With investment from GRDC, Mick has been working on a project led by Dr Michael Widderick from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland to develop a soil test for imazapic and diuron residues that will indicate damaging residue levels and help growers to decide which crops would be safe to plant in a paddock. “We are determining the threshold levels of residues of these two herbicides at which crop damage is likely for six crops, both winter and summer growing, in a range of soil types,” he says. In earlier work he also looked at the level of glyphosate residue in soils around the country at planting time and the impact these residues have on soil biological processes. “We found that residues of glyphosate were commonly detected in the soil at planting but there was no indication that the herbicide was adversely affecting soil biological activity,” says Mick. “This suggests that the label recommendations are suitable and the proper application of glyphosate in Australia is not posing a threat to soil health.” “For growers to be able to keep using glyphosate they need to implement the WeedSmart Big 6 strategy, including using diverse chemistry in fallows,” he says. “Residual herbicides are a useful tool for growers but there are some gaps in our knowledge about how these herbicides break down in different soils and under different seasonal conditions.” Why not just follow the plant back recommendations on the label? In brief: The label provides the minimum plant back period provided certain environmental conditions are met. There is a possibility of crop injury even though plant back periods are observed. The details: Many factors affect the bioavailability of a herbicide in the soil. For example, even though a clay soil and a sandy soil might have similar residue levels, more herbicide will be available for uptake in the sandy soil. More rain will increase the rate of breakdown, but it is not known exactly how much rain will ensure the specific soil is ‘safe’ to plant into. Another important factor is that many things can contribute to a germination failure. In some situations, residual herbicide may be suspected as the culprit, but can be difficult to either rule it in or out with certainty when diagnosing the reason for a problem at planting. If herbicide residues in the plant tissue can be shown to be phytotoxic, then another, less susceptible crop could be sown into the paddock. Dr Annie Ruttledge, DAF Qld weeds researcher, inspecting chickpea plants growing in soils containing different levels of imazapic and diuron herbicide residue. What effects can herbicide residues have on emerging crops? In brief: The herbicide itself can inhibit germination and growth, or it can exacerbate other factors, such as root disease. The details: At different levels of bioavailability, herbicide residues will have different effects on crop plants. If the herbicide is readily available to the plant, then susceptible crops will take it up from the soil and it can have phytotoxic effects ranging from suppressed vigour to yellowing and potentially plant death. Testing the plant tissue of a struggling crop can show if the leaves contain sufficient herbicide to have caused the observed symptoms. Some herbicide residues in soil can also ‘prune’ plant roots, particularly the fine roots that help access moisture and nutrients. Obviously, if the young plants are struggling to access resources then they will be less vigorous and possibly die. Damaged roots are also more susceptible to water stress, disease and poor nodulation in legumes, making it difficult to determine the initial cause of the problem in the field. If herbicide residues are shown to be the problem then a more tolerant crop can be sown, speeding up the breakdown of the residue and there will be more rainfall events before the next cropping season comes around. Seedling emergence and establishment is being measured for six crops (winter and summer) in the presence of different levels of herbicide. What pre-planting soil tests are being developed to give growers confidence to plant? In brief: The current project is establishing phytotoxicity thresholds for six summer and winter crops in a range of soil types, for two herbicides – imazapic and diuron. The details: By mid-2021 the aim is to have established the thresholds so that soil could be tested pre-plant to determine what crops would be safe to plant. This will give growers confidence to use these herbicides in a diverse strategy to manage weeds like feathertop Rhodes grass in the fallow, while avoiding germination or establishment failures in the following crop. Spray records play an important role in the management of these herbicides and mistakes can easily be made if the spray history for the past several years is not taken into account. In time, growers and their agronomists will gain a better understanding of how these herbicide residues behave in the soils on a particular property and will be able to make herbicide application and crop rotation decisions with more confidence. In another project with the Soil CRC, Mick is developing a predictive model for herbicide breakdown for a wider range of herbicides used in southern and western cropping systems. Until these tests and models become available, the use of an in-field or pot bioassay with a susceptible crop can be helpful in determining potential plant back issues. Related resources Herbicide residues in soil – the scale and significance (GRDC Update paper) Herbicide residues in soil (GRDC Podcast)
More lambs, less weeds in sheep containment systems
Livestock containment areas allow the Eagles to rest their pastures and fodder crops, efficiently use a variety of feeds and restrict the spread of weed seeds. On top of this they have also seen benefits in growth rates and lambing percentages. Sam says the six or seven hectares they have available for containment was not expensive to build and has made it much easier to manage their livestock and cropping enterprises. “I’d definitely recommend building containment areas for sheep,” he says. “It is such a simple concept that has so many benefits. They really help to manage ground cover on your pastures and cropping paddocks, and in dry times they make feeding out much less stressful. In the last drought we had up to 6500 sheep in containment, including lambs, and I could feed them all in less than three hours, and didn’t have to feed every day.” Sam and Emily use the containment areas for several purposes throughout the year. Although they generally keep their pasture and cropping paddocks separate, the sheep play an important role in weed management across the whole farm. “The containment areas allow us to bring in feed from outside if necessary and feed out screenings from our own grain, being confident that any weed seeds that come with that feed won’t be spread around the farm,” says Sam. “It is easy to manage any weeds that germinate in such a defined and small area of the farm. “When we buy in sheep we shear them as soon as they arrive to remove any risk of them introducing weeds like Bathurst burr,” he says. “We use the containment areas to avoid overgrazing pastures so the sheep eat the weeds like barley grass as well as the more palatable species. They also provide an effective double knock effect for weeds that have herbicide resistance.” The Eagles cut weedy paddocks for hay or silage and feed it out in the containment areas where they can control any weeds that germinate. Sam says above-ground pit silage has been very cost effective at around $10 a cubic meter to cut the silage and store it under a tarp before feeding out in the containment paddocks. “Silage is a very good weed control tactic,” he says. “You cut it early, so you are stopping weed seed set, and after three days of good weather you can spray out the paddock for a spray fallow.” The Eagles prefer to either graze a crop fully or grow it for grain, having found that the ‘grain and graze’ tactic for dual purpose crops had an unacceptable yield penalty and opened up the canopy to allow weeds to grow through and compete in the grain phase. They have found Moby barley plus clover to be the best cover crop to graze and then spray out. Oats and pasture are both cut either for hay or silage to conserve fodder and remove weed seeds. “In the cropping paddocks sheep will eat most of the weeds that evolve herbicide resistance, like wild radish, annual ryegrass, fleabane and whip thistle. They also generate cash flow from cover crops and from grain crops that don’t go through to harvest due to drought, flood, weeds or frost,” says Sam. “Over summer the sheep reduce our herbicide costs and reduce the stubble load, which makes sowing easier. Once the feed supply runs out, we put the sheep into containment until they start to lamb. This allows the pastures and crops to get ahead and gives us good feed to put the ewes into for lambing.” “The sheep can make inter-row sowing more difficult in our CTF system so we have to be careful to cut the stubble 300 mm or less above ground level so the stalks don’t lodge across the inter-row as the sheep graze the stubbles,” he says. Having used narrow windrow burning as their harvest weed seed control tactic for six years, Sam and Emily used a contract harvester with an impact mill for their harvester for the 2018 season. They were pleased with the job the mill did and are looking to purchase one of their own once the technology matures a little more. They use crop-topping in pulses and windrowing in canola to stop weed seed set and also spray herbicide under the cutter bar in canola. “We test weeds for herbicide resistance so we know what still works and plan out a diverse herbicide program with multiple chemical groups used in a broad crop rotation,” says Sam. Other than the grazing and weed management benefits, Sam and Emily have also found numerous productivity benefits for their 2500-strong merino flock. Using the containment yards for joining has seen increased conception rates and after preg-testing their ewes, Sam and Emily make separate mobs for the twins and singles so they can better manage the ewe’s nutrition while in containment. Once the lambs are weaned and are brought into containment their growth and feed utilisation rates are higher than when paddock grazed, meaning the returns on feed inputs are higher and the Eagles are able to either turn off hoggets earlier or at a higher weight. Building and using containment areas Size and design – they can be any size, provided an allowance is made for 2 to 5 m2 per sheep (2000 to 5000 sheep per ha). At the right stocking density the containment yards compact well and do not generate dust or strong odour. Place the food and water sources as far away from each other as possible in each containment yard – this helps keep the water troughs clean. Water – sheep require 6 litres of water each per day and more in very hot weather. Flow is more important than pressure, so use thicker pipe (e.g. 30 to 50 mm) to supply the troughs. Feeders – feed can be placed in self-feeders, feed troughs or on the ground. Shade – think about shade when designing the containment areas and look for ways to provide as much shade as possible. Protect any established trees. Feedstuffs – utilise a variety of feeds such as screenings, canola, hay, purchased grain and silage. Match the nutrient value of the feed with the class of animal you are feeding and supply any necessary mineral supplements. Get advice if you don’t have a good knowledge of animal nutrition. Stock health – give sheep 6-in-1 vaccines and drench before putting a mob into containment. Key benefits Less feed wastage means feed costs are reduced and productivity is higher with more lambs produced (higher conception rate) and faster weight gain compared to paddock grazing. The containment paddocks can have a variety of uses including being a fire break, lamb feedlot, shearing holding yard and joining paddock. Move sheep out once lambing commences. Holding sheep in the containment paddocks allows the pastures and fodder crops to create a green wedge of feed before being grazed. They also provide a suitable place to hold sheep once the pastures and fodder crops have run out in summer, maintaining groundcover levels across the farm. Good for your mental health in drought conditions as you don’t have to drive around dry paddocks every day, feeding doesn’t take as long each day, ground cover is preserved across the farm and the sheep can be kept in good condition. More information Eagle family case study Sheep confinement area fact sheet
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Next in controlling herbicide resistant broadleaf weeds.
PBA Kelpie XT is the fifth lentil variety released with tolerance to Group B herbicides, imazamox and imazapyr, along with one IMI-tolerant faba bean. University of Adelaide weeds researcher and PhD candidate, Alicia Merriam, says resistance to the IMI herbicides and other Group B chemistry, particularly the sulfonylureas (SU), is making control of some broadleaf weeds very difficult. University of Adelaide weeds researcher and PhD candidate, Alicia Merriam says screening has shown resistance to IMI herbicides in over 75 per cent of populations of both weeds collected in random weed surveys in South Australia. “Imi-tolerant lentils have been very popular with growers and have increased the weed control options in this important crop, but resistance in sowthistle and prickly lettuce is very widespread in the southern region,” she says. “Screening has shown resistance to IMI herbicides in over 75 per cent of populations of both weeds.” With investment from GRDC and an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, Alicia conducted a trial at two sites in South Australia to investigate options to implement the best practice recommendation for lentils – to control weeds in the preceding wheat crop and again at sowing or crop emergence in the lentils. Both sowthistle and prickly lettuce are renowned for their prolific seed production when growing in non-competitive situations and wind dispersal of seed enables recruitment of resistance from crop borders, and far beyond. Consequently, eradication is not a realistic proposition. “Sequencing the gene that controls resistance to Group B herbicides has uncovered a large variety of different mutations in these species across the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula in SA,” says Alicia. “Most mutations of this type cause SU resistance, but some cause IMI resistance and the effect can vary between weed species. Crucially, we found all these mutations within a single grower paddock, which shows that they are widely distributed.” “Crop rotation and increased crop competition are essential components of the WeedSmart Big 6 to help run down the seed bank and suppress seed production by all means available,” she says. “Herbicide tolerance in pulse crops is a useful tool when coupled with strong competition and other herbicide options in as many crops as possible in the rotation.” What is the current resistance status of sowthistle and prickly lettuce in the southern region? In brief: Widespread resistance to Group B SU and IMI chemistry exists in both these broadleaf weeds. The details: In surveys conducted in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula regions the percentage of SU-resistant populations of prickly lettuce increased from 66 per cent in 1999 to 82 per cent in 2004 and 100 per cent in 2019. The populations screened in the 2019 survey were all resistant to Group B IMI chemistry. Sowthistle surveys in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula have found SU resistance in 89 per cent of populations and IMI resistance in 76 per cent of populations. Surveys also show that Group B resistance in sowthistle is very common across the rest of the southern cropping region. Sample populations screened with SU and IMI herbicides where Population 1 is susceptible to SU and IMI herbicides, Population 2 is moderately resistant to SU but susceptible to IMI herbicides, and Population 3 is resistant to both these Group B herbicides. Did crop competition or herbicide treatments affect weed seed production in the wheat phase or weed numbers in the following crop? In brief: The herbicide treatments used in the 2018 wheat crop had an impact on the sowthistle population in the next crop, but had little effect on prickly lettuce. Crop competition treatments did not reduce weed density in the following growing season. The details: The weed populations at both sites were confirmed resistant to Group B herbicides but susceptible to glyphosate. The three in-crop treatments were 1. no in-crop herbicide, 2. ‘conventional’ herbicide application of metsulfuron-methyl (Ally) + MCPA and 3. ‘proactive’ herbicide application of bromoxynil + picolinafen + MCPA (Flight EC). Two levels of crop competition (seeding rate 60 and 90 kg/ha) were also applied. In the 2018 wheat crop the proactive treatment gave the best control of sowthistle in that crop and this resulted in a reduction in numbers in the 2019 crop. Although the conventional treatment provided some weed control benefit in the 2018 crop, the benefit did not flow on to the next crop, probably because the sowthistle population was resistant to the residual action of the metsulfuron-methyl component of the conventional treatment. The herbicide treatments both reduced prickly lettuce density better than the untreated option but there was no additional benefit from the more expensive proactive treatment in either the year of application or the following crop. Crop competition is a well-established practice for reducing weed seed production, so it was surprising to find that increased crop competition did not reduce weed numbers in the following year. This could be due to conditions in the year of the trial and the mobility of seed of these species. In less competitive situations (right) sowthistle and prickly lettuce produce vast quantities of seed whereas in competitive situations (left) seed production is considerably reduced. What’s the take-home message for using herbicide tolerant lentils in the rotation? In brief: Herbicide tolerant crops are an important tool but must complement a diverse arsenal of weed control tactics. Short rotations are a very risky option and will lead to yield-reducing numbers of these prolific seeding weeds. The details: Sowthistle and prickly lettuce can be expected to become increasingly difficult to control in the lentil phase. Neither crop competition nor proactive herbicide regimes alone are likely to provide sufficient downward pressure on these weeds in a short rotation. Building in a longer break away from lentils is likely to be a more effective strategy. The number of different resistance mutations found in the cropping regions of the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula show that Group B resistance is widespread, and here to stay. This highlights the importance of diversity in crop and herbicide groups rotations, including the strategic use of herbicide tolerant crops. The new Group G herbicide Reflex, with planned registration for IBS (knife point press wheel) application in lentils, will also be a welcome addition to improve weed control options in this crop. Further resources Common sowthistle and prickly lettuce in lentil crops of southern australia – Managing herbicide resistance and highly mobile resistance genes, GRDC Update paper Feb 2020
Stacking the odds against awnless barnyard grass
Unfortunately, glyphosate resistance seems to confer no such disadvantage on awnless barnyard grass. In a recent random survey of summer-growing weeds in the northern grains region, 36 per cent of awnless barnyard grass (Echinochloa colona) populations proved resistant to glyphosate. Awnless barnyard grass response to no crop competition – glyphosate resistant (GR) ABG with 0 mungbean plants/pot (left) and glyphosate susceptible (GS) ABG with 0 mungbean plants/pot (right). Through a focused effort to better understand this problematic weed, GRDC invested in a series of studies on various aspects of its ecology. This work was done by QAAFI weed researchers, led by Dr Bhagirath Chauhan at the University of Queensland, Gatton.< “Awnless barnyard grass is one of the top three most problematic weeds of summer crops and fallows in Australia,” says Dr Chauhan. “Our studies looked at environmental and cultural effects on germination, the impact of crop competition and early weed control, seed retention at harvest and the effect of low rates of glyphosate.” These studies confirmed that awnless barnyard grass can emerge in spring, summer and autumn in Queensland, with temperature being the main driver of seed germination.“Germination is rapid for seed exposed to the light on the soil surface, as in no-till summer fallows,” he says. “As the temperature increases, seed buried up to 8 cm below the surface can also germinate. Covering the soil with crop residue suppressed germination by about 20 per cent, from 70 per cent without cover down to 47 per cent with sorghum trash.” To run down the seedbank of awnless barnyard grass, whether glyphosate resistant or not, requires two to three years of no recruitment through ‘seed rain’. Strategic tillage is only useful if the seed bank is buried to a depth of more than 8 cm and then not disturbed again for many years as the seed will persist for longer than two years once buried. “The best way to reduce seed production in this weed is to grow competitive crops in summer and to focus on controlling weeds for the first two weeks after crop emergence,” says Dr Chauhan. “Both mungbean and sorghum crops can significantly suppress awnless barnyard grass growth and reduce the quantity of seed set over the warmer months.” “Compared with weed plants grown alone, mungbean interference of four and eight plants per pot reduced weed seed production by 85 to 95 per cent. These reductions were similar for both glyphosate resistant and susceptible biotypes.” Mungbean crop competition suppresses awnless barnyard grass (crop plants removed to show the effect on weed growth and habit. From left to right: GR ABG with 4 mungbean plants/pot; GS ABG with 4 mungbean plants/pot; GR ABG with 8 mungbean plants/pot; GS ABG with 8 mungbean plants/pot. Likewise, even a sorghum crop at one metre row spacing, suppressed weed growth and seed production. Awnless barnyard grass produces 4000 seeds per plant when emergence is with the crop, 1000 seeds per plant when emergence is two weeks later and less than 100 seeds per plant when emergence is four and six weeks after crop emergence. “This shows the importance of early weed control – even in widely-spaced sorghum,” says Dr Chauhan. “Plants that do emerge with the sorghum crop or within the first two weeks retain about 45 per cent of their seed at harvest. Although larger plants produce more seed than smaller ones, plant size did not predict the level of seed retention at sorghum harvest.” Awnless barnyard grass response to early weed control in wide-row (1 m) sorghum – BYG emerging with the crop (left) vs emerging after the crop (right). While harvest weed seed control might be less practical in sorghum than other summer crops, removing almost half of the seed produced in-crop would be a valuable contribution to reducing the seed bank. The random weed survey indicated that all populations, whether resistant to glyphosate or not, were susceptible to propaquizafop, clethodim and imazapic, providing some herbicide options for growers to achieve early weed control.n terms of pure plant ecology, there were few surprises – some awnless barnyard grass biotypes are more invasive than others, but growth and seed production of this weed at all moisture levels and environmental conditions ensures survival of the species and contributes to its weedy nature. “In a study of ten awnless barnyard grass populations we saw large variations in many traits, but growth behavior and seed production potential in these populations did not help predict the likelihood of glyphosate resistance evolving,” he says. “Soil moisture is the main driver of weed growth and seed production. However, when this weed is well-watered even the glyphosate-resistant populations were three times more susceptible to the herbicide than when the weed is water-stressed.” In both resistant and susceptible biotypes, very low rates of glyphosate were shown to stimulate growth. This is known as the ‘hormesis phenomenon’, where a stress can stimulate a positive response. Plants treated with glyphosate at active ingredient rates of 2.5 to 40 g/ha grew taller and produced more leaves, tillers, inflorescences and seeds than the control treatment. These rates are far lower than label rates for awnless barnyard grass and demonstrate the importance of accurate mixing and application of herbicides to ensure lethal rates are applied. These weed ecology studies have demonstrated that glyphosate resistance in awnless barnyard grass does not confer any advantage or disadvantage over susceptible biotypes. The recommendation then is to treat all populations as resistant to glyphosate and to stack as many of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics against it as possible, even if each tactic only provides a relatively small control benefit. More resources Webinar – Weed biology insight to improve the management of feathertop Rhodes grass and barnyard grass (the barnyard grass segment starts at the 30 min mark) The extent of herbicide resistance in summer grasses revealed Getting on top of barnyard grass in summer crops and fallow Creating stiff competition against summer weeds https://www.weedsmart.org.au/webinars/weed-biology-insights-to-improve-management-of-feathertop-rhodes-grass-barnyard-grass/
Rising significance of resistant barley grass
Barley grass has a number of tactics up its sleeve to help evade both herbicide and non-herbicide weed control methods. This has made it a weed of interest for the University of Adelaide’s Weed Science Group, led by Associate Professor Gurjeet Gill, who are investigating the ecology of emerging weeds in the low rainfall zones of southern Australia University of Adelaide researchers Dr Gurjeet Gill and Ben Fleet say that understanding weed ecology and undertaking herbicide screening will help find ways to manage increasing resistance in barley grass. With investment from the GRDC, Dr Gill and his team analysed the dormancy traits and herbicide resistance status of 146 random samples of barley grass collected by agronomists in WA, SA, Victoria and NSW in 2018. Of the 146 random samples collected, five per cent of populations showed resistance to Group A herbicides and 21 per cent showed resistance to Group B herbicides. There was no evidence of resistance to glyphosate or paraquat. There were also large differences between the populations in the level of seed dormancy as seen by the timing of seedling emergence in autumn. Barley grass populations from the Eyre Peninsula in particular were much slower to establish than those from other low rainfall regions. Late emerging weeds can escape weed control with knockdown herbicides. In a later study, growers from the Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF) collected samples of barley grass seed in 2019 from paddocks where growers had experienced difficulty in controlling barley grass with herbicides. These samples were tested for resistance screening in 2020. Resistance screening of barley grass from suspect paddocks on the Eyre Peninsula, SA. “The expectation was that most populations from the targeted survey in 2019 would be resistant to Group A herbicides,” says Dr Gill. “Resistance to the Group A herbicides was confirmed in 17 of the 22 populations from EP, or 77 per cent. Within this Group, resistance to quizalofop was 100 per cent for the suspect populations while there remains some useful activity from clethodim and butroxydim, which will help the growers in the short term.” Herbicide resistant barley grass shows no response to a high rate of the commonly-used Group A herbicide, quizalofop (right) compared to a plant from a susceptible population (left). The same populations were also tested with Group B imidazolinone chemistry, which offers some activity against Group A resistant barley grass, although one of the EP populations was completely resistant to the IMI herbicide. The good news is all of these populations remain susceptible to glyphosate and paraquat. Dr Gill says that research and field observation confirm there is significant variability in barley grass populations’ ecology and herbicide resistance status. “Understanding how different barley grass populations behave is key to their management,” he says. “The seed dormancy and seed shedding traits of a population have important implications in terms of management options. Barley grass often evades pre-emergent herbicides through delayed emergence and at the other end of the season barley grass often sheds its seed before crop maturity, so harvest weed seed control is rendered ineffective in many circumstances.” Barley grass is susceptible to strong crop competition, and on mixed farms Dr Gill says some farmers have had success using pyroxasulfone herbicide in wheat ahead of a pasture phase, where good grazing management can limit seed production in barley grass. Applying the WeedSmart Big 6 integrated weed management strategy to barley grass will keep herbicides working for longer and maximise the impact of cultural control tactics.
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Is HWSC useful against weeds that shed seeds early?
Many weed species shed seed before the grain crop is ready to harvest, so you might expect harvest weed seed control to be fairly ineffective against such weeds. WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development weeds researcher, Dr Catherine Borger, says it might surprise many people just how much harvest weed seed control can impact the seed bank of notorious early-shedders like great brome grass and barley grass. Dr Catherine Borger, DPIRD examined great brome and barley grass emergence and shedding times in controlled conditions at Northam WA to better understand the ecology of these weeds and the value of harvest weed seed control (HWSC). “What we found in our studies of several populations of these two weeds in WA and SA is that firstly there is a lot of variability in how these weeds behave in different seasons, and secondly, even relatively low levels of weed seed capture at harvest can make a big difference to reducing the weed seed bank,” she says. This research is part of a national GRDC investment in better understanding the ecology of key weed species in each region. “Great brome grass and barley grass cost farmers in the Southern and Western cropping regions around $22 million and $2 million annually respectively, in control costs and lost production,” says Catherine. “Great brome grass and barley grass are problematic weeds on 1.4 million ha and 235,000 ha of farming land respectively across these two regions. Consequently, farmers are spending over $3 million a year on additional herbicide costs to manage herbicide resistant great brome grass.” The weed ecology work on these two species showed that an integrated control program can effectively run down the seed bank for both these species in three or four years and that staggered emergence, particularly in brome grass means that end of season control tactics must be included in the strategy. “The WeedSmart Big 6 is a useful planning tool because managing the weed seed bank requires a range of tactics to be implemented at different times through the year,” she says. “A combination of herbicide and non-herbicide tools used at strategic times will have the best chance of getting weed numbers down and keeping them low.” What do we know about seed retention at harvest for these two weeds? In brief: In some years it is quite low but in other years a large proportion of the seed is still in the seed heads at harvest and beyond. The details: Seed shedding is not well understood and is driven by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. Harvest date obviously has a large bearing on the amount of weed seed still on the plants at harvest. In paddocks with high or increasing weed numbers it may be worth harvesting as early as possible to maximise the benefit of HWSC. In 2016 to 2018 great brome seed retention at the Wongan Hills site in WA was between 40 and 70 per cent at crop maturity (around mid-November). A later harvest date in 2016 resulted in almost no seed being present on the plants at harvest. Similarly, for barley grass – in 2016 all the seed shed by harvest in December, and in 2017 and 2018 seed was still on the plants well into summer. Great brome grass retains a proportion of seed at crop maturity and even capturing 20 to 40 per cent of the weed seed through HWSC can make a big difference to the weed seed bank. Do you recommend HWSC as a useful control tactic for great brome and barley grass? In brief: Yes, particularly for the highly competitive great brome grass. Even capturing 20 to 40 per cent of the weed seed produced can make a big difference to future weed pressure. The details: It is difficult to manage weeds that exhibit staggered germinations during the cropping season with herbicides alone. Both these weeds can be difficult to get into the harvester – great brome can bend forward and slip under the cutter bar while barley grass seed heads are often held very close to the ground. While barley grass might be almost impossible to get into the header it is also much less competitive in the crop than great brome. Modelling with the Weed Seed Wizard decision support tool showed that if the header is able to capture just 20 per cent of the great brome grass seed produced, the seed bank can be halved over a six-year rotation. Consistently collecting and destroying 60 per cent of the great brome seed each year can reduce the weed seed bank from almost 11,000 seeds to just 86 at the end of a six-year rotation. Any herbicide tactic applied early in the season that only achieved 20 per cent control would be considered a waste of time, and this highlights the value of late season weed control tactics such as HWSC. How long do great brome seeds last in the soil? In brief: Great brome grass can be brought under control in three or four years if an integrated weed management plan is implemented. The details: Under irrigation, about 40 per cent of the seed germinated in the first year and almost all the seed had germinated by the end of the third year. In field conditions a similar pattern was recorded for both great brome and barley grass. If control tactics are used to stop seed set then it is possible to reduce weed numbers within a few years. Great brome populations in SA were found to exhibit more delayed emergence traits than populations in WA. This could be due to the longer history of pre-emergent herbicide use in SA that has resulted in the evolution of delayed emergence to avoid early herbicide application. In both WA and SA, barley grass populations exhibited staggered emergence. Great brome is highly competitive and is a costly weed for growers, particularly in low crop yield seasons. However, when moisture is not a limiting factor, crops can often produce good yield even when high weed numbers are present.
Long-time advocate joins the WeedSmart team
Chris Davey has been advocating planned and sustainable weed control programs with growers on the Yorke Peninsula for many years and has been a great supporter of the WeedSmart message in his patch and beyond. In August Chris accepted an offer to join the WeedSmart team as the new Southern Extension Agronomist. He joins Peter Newman in the Western region, Greg and Kirrily Condon in the East and Paul McIntosh in the North. Chris Davey, YP-AG has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists and played a key role in coordinating the 2020 WeedSmart Week in Clare, SA. Chris has hit the ground running with his first responsibility being to coordinate the 2020 WeedSmart Week event in extraordinary circumstances. The annual 3-day event went off without a hitch around Clare in early September, with growers and agronomists from across South Australia hearing from experts in herbicide resistance management and visiting farms where growers have implemented a range of strategies to keep weed numbers low. “WeedSmart Week is a terrific way to share ideas and information surrounding integrated weed management,” says Chris. “We are all challenged with the task of using herbicides strategically within a management program that also includes many non-chemical tactics. There is solid science behind the recommendations and experience in the field shows that WeedSmart’s Big 6 approach is practical and effective.” Justin Harris, Davon Pastoral Co, Thomas Plain (second from left) was one of the six host farmers for WeedSmart Week 2020, Clare SA. In welcoming Chris to the WeedSmart team, program manager Lisa Mayer says having an extension agronomist of Chris’ calibre dedicated to sharing the WeedSmart message with growers in southern Australia offers many opportunities to ramp up the pressure on herbicide resistant weeds in the region. “Southern growers are facing some serious issues with herbicide resistance impacting on their farming decisions,” she says. “Chris and the other extension agronomists in the WeedSmart team have a wealth of experience and knowledge, particularly in their own regions, and this underpins their work in adapting the Big 6 principles to suit the conditions in each farming system.” “We are thrilled to have been able to successfully deliver WeedSmart Week in South Australia this year amid great uncertainty,” says Ms Mayer. “The forum and field tours came together very successfully due to the local support from Chris and the YP-AG team, along with our collaborators – Pinion Advisory agronomist, Jana Dixon, and the Hart Field Site Group.” WeedSmart program manager Lisa Mayer and GRDC Manager Weeds, Jason Emms at the 2019 WeedSmart Week in Emerald, Qld. WeedSmart is the industry voice delivering science-backed weed control solutions with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), major herbicide, machinery and seed companies, and university and government research partners, all of whom have a stake in sustainable farming systems. WeedSmart Southern Extenion agronomist Chris Davey discussing the pros and cons of different harvest weed seed control systems with growers Gary Bruce (left) and Jarrad Cock (right) at the WeedSmart Week machinery site.
Taking a single shot at weeds
As farmers get their hands on fast and accurate weed mapping technology, the frequency of blanket herbicide spraying can be greatly reduced. With an accurate digital map that shows where the weeds are right now, most boomspray rigs can become low-cost spot sprayers. For the past two years John Single and his son Tony have been using the air-borne weed sensor, Single Shot, developed by John’s other son Ben, to rapidly detect and map weeds on their dryland cropping property, Narratigah, near Coonamble, NSW. John Single with a drone carrying the Single Shot weed sensor. By separating the weed mapping and weed spraying tasks the Singles can take a planned approach to their weed management throughout the year. Ben saw the benefits of separating the weed detection and weed spraying tasks and set about building the platform and working with Robotic Systems to bring the idea to reality. “The main aim is to stay ahead of herbicide resistance,” says John. “Ten years ago we started work on developing drone-mounted sensors that could take over the task of detecting weeds in a green-on-brown situation. Many sprayers, particularly later models, do not require any modifications and there are many benefits in having the weed mapping done separately rather than on-the-go.” Weed maps enable growers to take a planned approach to their weed management throughout the year and to build a historical record of weeds in a paddock. The Single Shot sensor maps green-on-brown but are not limited to fallow situations. The sensors can be used in newly sown crops to map weeds that emerged on the planting rain or were missed in a previous application. These patches, or individual weeds, can be treated in-crop or a pre-emergent can be applied to the patches at the end of the season. The sensor can also be used in-crop to identify high biomass areas within a paddock where high weed density requires more drastic action, such as cutting for hay, and in wide-row crops where the canopy does not fully close and weeds can be detected between the rows. Screen shot of the Trimble guidance screen in operation with a Single Shot spray map. The Singles have used the Single Shot technology in several different management scenarios already and the possibilities seem endless. John says they have used the sensor to identify survivor marshmallow and milk thistle plants in fallow and then spot spray them with a high rate of Starane to prevent seed set. They have mapped feathertop Rhodes grass in wheat to generate a map for applying pre-emergent herbicide post-harvest and have filtered data to segregate weeds based on size, giving them the option to apply a blanket spray on smaller weeds and a herbicide spike to treat larger weeds, or to use a second boom to apply two different products or rates. Where pre-emergent herbicides are used, a perimeter determined by the user can be added to cover the seed distribution area of the mother plant. Another important role for Single Shot at Narratigah is to scout for survivor weeds after herbicide applications. The Singles crop 4500 ha and can map the farm at a rate of up to 300 ha per hour. This is one of the most important tasks in a herbicide program and yet it is generally not done effectively due to the time required. Having ‘eyes in the sky’ makes routine and accurate scouting practical after every spray treatment. The sensor is capable of covering 300 ha/hr under continuous flight or targeting weeds greater than 5 cm diameter. Under normal operating conditions, and including battery changes, the Singles achieve a work rate of around 200 ha/hour. Critically, data processing can be done in the field, if the internet is available at the site, and is done at a speed 1.7 times faster than flight time. Once a weed map has been created, the drone can be sent out again to take high resolution imagery of plants in specific locations in the paddock for identification purposes, allowing John and Tony to plan a herbicide program with their agronomist, based on exactly what’s in the paddock. When it comes to spraying, having the weeds mapped before the spray operator gets in the cab means that the job can be done when conditions are suitable, including at night. The real power of the Single Shot system is the ability to run simulations and to re-process the data to fine-tune a herbicide program based on weed size or density. The sensor requires just a 1 cm ‘brown’ perimeter around a weed to be able to detect the weed size. The weed maps are built from images that are ten thousand times higher resolution than satellite images, giving a 1 cm sampling size. Every part of the paddock is photographed twice so obstacles such as stubble occlusion can be significantly reduced. The drone flies at a height of 75 m, following a pre-determined path, and can also be flown lower and or slower if necessary to collect specific data. The sensor also accurately identifies stressed weeds. “Information is power and this has really put us back in control of our weed management,” says John. “We know how much chemical to buy to do the job at hand, we know the costs and can alter the chemistry to suit a budget if necessary, we can choose to blanket spray or spot spray, and our ability to apply the double knock tactic is greatly improved.” Ready for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spraying In a bid to be one step ahead of the game, the Single Shot software will also calculate the shortest path for the sprayer, which is most useful when doing spot spraying on an ATV, or in the future, to deliver herbicide via a drone-mounted sprayer (UAV) or autonomous vehicles. “We ran a scenario for treating about two thousand survivor weeds in a 125 ha paddock using a spray drone,” says Ben. “To apply a blanket spray to the paddock, the spray drone would need to travel about 310 km. Using the Single Shot software we determined the shortest path to reach all the weeds, which cut down the time required to do the job to just two and a half hours. The sprayer would only be applying herbicide for 16 km of the 54 km flight, and just 5 per cent of the paddock would have herbicide applied.” Left: Actual weed coverage in a 125 ha paddock (blue line is the boundary, and purple is weed). Right: The path that the UAV would travel using the shortest route computation. Weed mapping using tools and systems like Single Shot are putting growers back in the driving seat to cost-effectively and consistently implement the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics that underpin sustainable herbicide use and maintain productivity gains through no-till farming systems.