Read time: 4 minutes

Aaron McDonald, Horsham Vic

Hay beats weeds

Hay production is a central component of Aaron McDonald’s mixed farming operation near Horsham and it is helping to keep herbicide resistance in weeds at bay.

Farming with his parents, Greg and Leanne, Aaron runs 5500 ewes for wool and prime lamb production, utilising pastures, hay paddocks and crop stubble on their 4050 ha property.

The McDonalds are finding a rotation of canola, wheat, canola, wheat, then a double break of canola followed by faba beans or clover hay, is profitable and enables them to keep weed numbers down.

In barley crops the straw is also often baled after cutting the crop low, allowing sowing without stubble burning.

Aaron does most of their oaten hay production on the poorer soils but also uses oaten hay as an effective means to clean-up paddocks that have a higher infestation of ryegrass. Their clover hay is sold locally, predominantly as cattle feed, while their oaten hay is exported most years.

“Annual ryegrass and wild radish are our main problem weeds,” says Aaron. “We test for herbicide resistance every couple of years and so far the results have come back as ‘susceptible’ for most of the major groups. The main challenge we have with wild radish is the fact that it germinates all year round. With ryegrass it’s all about keeping plant numbers low.”

Although the testing is not showing herbicide resistance, Aaron is seeing evidence of Select not working as well as it did in the past. To add more mode-of-action diversity to their system the McDonalds are using pre-emergent herbicides Sakura and Boxer Gold in cereals with good success and grow both hybrid (RR and 650TT) and open-pollinated (TT) canola cultivars.

“The RR canola enables extra knocks with glyphosate in-crop to clean up paddocks where we are concerned over the efficacy of Select,” says Aaron. “All our other in-crop herbicides are still working well but we are trying to rotate as much as possible with Select and Edge, and using paraquat ahead of canola and glyphosate or paraquat ahead of cereals.”

The McDonalds have always sown their crops on fairly narrow rows, 250 mm spacing, and use high sowing rates (wheat and oats sown at 100 kg/ha and canola at 3.6 kg/ha) to provide strong crop competition to help with weed control.

The sheep grazing stubbles provides quite good control of summer weeds but some herbicide is always required. Aaron’s main summer weed concerns are melons and self-sown crop. In autumn or pre-sowing he occasionally double-knocks but often there are no survivors so the second knock is not needed.

Hay making and harvest weed seed control

Aaron has implemented narrow windrow burning for the last 4 or 5 years in their canola crops as a harvest weed seed control tactic to capture late germinating weeds. This is supported with strategic crop topping of the canola to desiccate and then windrowing 80 per cent of the canola area each year.

In their cereals, crops are cut low and stubble is burnt on about 75 per cent of the cropped area to allow easier sowing operation, and has the added benefit of destroying some weed seed. In barley crops the straw is often baled after cutting the crop low, allowing sowing without stubble burning. Grazing stubble and burning also helps reduce mice and slug numbers.

“Oaten hay production enables us to apply a desiccant over the top prior to cutting for hay,” says Aaron. “This gives us the opportunity to implement a herbicide plus non-herbicide double knock on in-crop herbicide escapes.”

Aaron McDonald is using oaten hay and clover hay production as weed management tools within their mixed farming operation south of Horsham.

“We graze the cereal stubble and canola narrow windrows after harvest but don’t leave the sheep on the paddocks for long,” he says. “We find that the cereals provide better feed value than the canola windrows but we also put lambs on the canola regrowth for a little extra green pick.”

Each year about 5000 lambs move through the on-farm feedlot, where the McDonalds feed out gradings from the barley grain and the straw. “Feeding the grain gradings out in the feed lot also brings weed seeds into the confinement area where we can control them quite easily,” says Aaron.

The feedlot adds value to the straw and grain gradings, turning off about 5000 lambs per year. Weed seeds that are brought back to the feedlot are easily managed if they survive being eaten.


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Increase pre-em efficacy through a mix and rotate strategy

Part 1: Control summer weeds for yield and profit Every $1 spent on summer weed control can potentially return up to $8/ha through moisture and nitrogen conservation. The impact on grain yield as a result of various summer weed control treatments is what Colin McMaster (NSW DPI R&D) refers to as “buying a spring”.  Listen to Colin and Pete Newman (AHRI) as they investigate the $$ benefits of controlling summer weeds. Resources: Ask an Expert column with Colin McMaster GRDC Summer Fallow Weed Management Manual   Part 2: Increase pre-em efficacy through a mix and rotate strategy We’ve done a good job of promoting herbicide rotation over the years. And whilst this advice still stands, recent research shows the benefits of mixing herbicides as well. As American weeds researcher, Pat Tranel, puts it, “rotating buys you time, mixing buys you shots (of herbicide)”. Listen to Pat and Pete as they explore the benefits of the mix and rotate strategy.

Post emergent herbicides

Resources Spray resistant radish early for best efficacy and yield (Grant Thompson, Crop Updates paper 2014) Herbicide resistant wild radish (Peter Newman) Controlling herbicide resistant Wild Radish in wheat in the Northern Agricultural Region of WA with a two spray strategy (Peter Newman) Diverse weed control: Left jab, right hook (AHRI insight)   Part 2:When is it worth rotating from clethodim (Select®) to butroxydim (Factor®)? Is there any value in rotating the post-emergent herbicides clethodim (Select®) and butroxydim (Factor®)? The research suggests that Factor® will sometimes kill plants that are moderately-resistant to Select® that could help in driving down the weed seed bank. Dr Peter Boutsalis from the University of Adelaide discusses his latest research and observations using both products with AHRI’s Peter Newman.


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Double breaks – a double shot at annual ryegrass

Perhaps you’re a ‘short black’ wheat-canola type, strong on inputs? Or a ‘long black’ type who likes to dilute their rotations a bit more? Or are you a ‘double shot’, throwing in a few break crops in a row for maximum effect? When it comes to managing annual ryegrass populations, Tony Swan and the research team from CSIRO Plant Industry and FarmLink, have shown that ‘double shots’ are the key. Growing two break crops in sequence (broadleaf crop, hay crop or long fallow) was more effective in reducing resistant ryegrass numbers to manageable levels than a single break crop or continuous wheat over a three-year rotation. And it can still be profitable.

RIM: Ryegrass Integrated Management

RIM is a hands on, user-friendly decision support software that allows farmers and advisors to evaluate the long-term cropping profitability of strategic and tactical ryegrass control methods, on the long-term and at the paddock scale. RIM lets you test your ideas: How can you run your ryegrass down and profit up? New rotation? New technique? View the full video here

AHRI features

Sustaining herbicides with harvest weed seed management Rotate, rotate, rotate! Incorporating non-chemical harvest weed seed control methods into cropping systems provides another set of tools to fight weeds and to delay the onset of herbicide resistance. View full video at the AHRI website


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Fact Sheet

Farm Business Management Factsheet

Key points Effective decision-making is at the core of successful farm business management. Making informed, logical and timely business decisions is crucial to achieving business objectivess. Understand the different elements that influence how decisions are made and the possible outcomes. Consider who is responsible for the final decisions in the different areas of your farm business. Ensure the decision is finalised and implemented in a timely manner. Want to link to this fact sheet/publication? Full article can be found here
Fact Sheet

Stewardship First SprayBest Guide

The application of herbicides late in the season to prevent weeds setting seed or to desiccate crops must be carried out with caution and in line with herbicide label recommendations. It is essential to check if these practices are acceptable to buyers, as in some situations markets have extremely low or even zero tolerance to some pesticide and herbicide residues.

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