Read time: 6 minutes

Bale direct cost effective in the right circumstances

The Bale Direct system is an effective harvest weed seed control method that has also turned a quid for David Heinjus on his family’s mixed farm, Pareta Farms, near Freeling on the edge of the Barossa Valley, SA.

David Heinjus is well into a seven year campaign against herbicide resistant weeds using the Bale Direct technology.

David Heinjus is well into a seven year campaign against herbicide resistant weeds using the Bale Direct technology.

Herbicide resistant ryegrass has been a challenge on their 3500 ha farm for several years and wild radish is also showing signs of developing resistance. For around 20 years oaten hay production has been part of the rotation on the farms and this has helped manage the annual ryegrass problem.

In 2007 the family leased a farm at Kapunda and reintroduced livestock to their farming operation. They are currently running 2000 ewes for wool and prime lamb production and have included a vetch and balansa clover pasture phase to the rotation of bread and durum wheat, faba bean, canola and oaten hay.

Mr Heinjus invested in the Bale Direct system in 2009, when he saw the opportunity to reliably collect weed seed at harvest and produce a salable commodity in the process.

“Livestock and hay production helped contain the problem we had with annual ryegrass but we could see that it was not going to be the whole answer,” said Mr Heinjus. “We didn’t want to burn chaff rows or heaps because our farms are surrounded by many neighbours. The Bale Direct system is a great way to collect and remove weed seed from all our crops and we have been very pleased with the results.”

To operate efficiently the Bale Direct system requires a large harvester but once the adaption is made the baling operation does not slow harvesting down. Since having the unit installed Mr Heinjus has modified it slightly, adding a small water tank and pump to spray water into the baling chamber to help maximise bale weight in hot conditions.

The bales are sold to a livestock feed pellet mill less than 10 km from the Heinjus’ farms, making the sale of 8000 plus bales a year a profitable income stream for the business. Mr Heinjus identifies availability of markets and freight as the greatest barriers to the adoption of the Bale Direct technology.

He also employs some additional casual labour at harvest time to stack the bales but overall the system has provided a good return on investment. Mr Heinjus has a professional background in financial management and planning and so was in a good position to thoroughly test the profitability as well as the practical benefit of his investment in this harvest weed seed control method.

“We have the advantage of a nearby market and we take care of the delivery ourselves,” he said. “We also sell directly to some customers who use the straw for bedding in piggeries and chicken sheds. Once the straw has been used for bedding it is generally composted and that is the final step in destroying the weed seeds.”

To maximise profitability with the Bale Direct system Mr Heinjus has kept their harvester a few years longer than he would normally keep a new harvester. He plans to sell the harvester, complete with the Bale Direct module, in 2015–16 at the conclusion of a seven-year dedicated campaign to drive down the weed seed bank.

The Direct Bale system captures over 95 per cent of weed seeds present at harvest at a cost of just under $50/ha over 1000 ha.

The Direct Bale system captures over 95 per cent of weed seeds present at harvest at a cost of just under $50/ha over 1000 ha.

The only downside to the system in Mr Heinjus’ view is the continual removal of the crop residue from their paddocks. Now that the baling program has removed a significant amount of weed seed from the farms Mr Heinjus is planning to revert back to weed control methods that retain more crop residue in the paddocks.

He is confident that the hay production and livestock and pasture phase will be able to provide reliable control once the weed seed bank has been significantly run down during the seven year harvest weed seed control plan using the Bale Direct system.

“The pasture phase is a low risk break crop and weed control option for us,” he said. “We can sow vetch and balansa clover early and not be concerned about frost-prone paddocks. The high bulk pasture competes well with weeds and the sheep clean up any rogues that do appear.”

Mr Heinjus uses the ewes and lambs in a controlled grazing program to take advantage of the high bulk of feed. At weaning the ewes are removed, leaving the lambs to finish on the pasture and to clean up any weeds before they set seed.

“In addition to the weed control advantages, the pasture also provides additional soil nitrogen and is a disease break for the cereal crops,” he said. “Once the Bale Direct phase is complete we will reintroduce stubble grazing to clean up cropping paddocks after harvest.”

After some initial testing to establish that herbicide resistant weeds were present on the farms, Mr Heinjus now treats all weeds as if they were resistant and has built as much diversity as possible into his weed management plan.

“There are weeds resistant to group A and B herbicides and I expect there would be some glyphosate resistant weeds too,” he said. “We have found that we are still using similar amounts of herbicide but the sprays are more effective than they were before we started our campaign to bring crop weeds under control.”

The large bales produced have many uses in intensive agriculture, construction and energy industries, making the system economically attractive when the farm has buyers nearby.

The large bales produced have many uses in intensive agriculture, construction and energy industries, making the system economically attractive when the farm has buyers nearby.

Costing it out

Wongan Hills grower, Graham Shields, developed the Glenvar Bale Direct system, which captures all of the residue leaving the harvester, including 95 to 98 per cent of weed seeds.

Peter Newman from the AHRI communications team, said the end uses for the bales include stockfeed pellets, animal bedding, ethanol fuel and straw logs for power generation or the manufacture of strawboard.

“Overall the Bale Direct system is a great way to remove weed seeds at harvest while increasing profitability,” he said.

“However, this is a costly option if you don’t have a suitable market for the bales nearby because the system has high finance, fuel, maintenance, bale handling and residue removal costs.”

The estimated cost, based on one harvester and including nutrient removal costs for a 2 t/ha wheat crop, is $49.38 per hectare for 1000 ha, down to $32.47 per ha for 4000 ha. With access to a suitable market these costs can easily be recovered through the additional income, as David Heinjus has found.

Research supported by AHRI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) shows seedbanks of annual weeds can be rapidly depleted when harvest weed seed control systems are used to capture and destroy weed seeds at harvest.

Related Articles

View all

Never cut the herbicide application rate

Scientific studies have demonstrated that resistance can rapidly evolve in weeds subjected to low doses of herbicide. Some weeds can develop resistance within a few generations. Full rates when mixing herbicides too! When mixing herbicides it is important that each product is still applied at the full label rate to ensure high mortality. Applying different chemicals in one mix can provide an additive advantage. It is important to understand the mode of action of each herbicide on the plant when preparing a herbicide mix. This is just as important for pre-emergent grass weed mixes as it is for post-emergent mixes aimed at broadleaf weed control. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. Surrounding weed seeds with a combination of pre-emergent herbicides with different modes of action can give a high level of control and help extend the useful life of all the chemicals used. The high level of control must be supported with additional control measures for all survivors. All products with different modes of action must be applied at full label rates for this to be an effective strategy.   Mixing two chemicals with the same mode of action can achieve some additional efficacy, however, the mix should deliver the combined full rate to ensure a lethal dose. The amount of stubble present and crop safety are all important considerations when mixing chemicals. For example, when using a tank mix of Avadex® and trifluralin to control ryegrass in wheat, the rates used will vary depending on the sowing system and level of stubble retention. Be sure to get good advice. Many herbicides on the market are a combination of two or more modes of action within the one product. These products must be applied at the full label rate to be effective. Having dual action does not negate the need to change herbicide products and rotate modes of action. Repeated use of any single strategy will reduce the effectiveness of that strategy over time.  

Spray well – correct nozzles, adjuvants and water rates

Spray application is a technical field and growers need to make sure their equipment and application techniques are spot-on. The GRDC Spray Application GrowNote provides detailed information and about 80 videos to demonstrate key skills. Prevent spray-drift The focus of spraying herbicide needs to be on doing the job right so the weeds receive the correct dose and die, and this includes reducing the air borne fraction to a bare minimum. Bill Gordon’s 10 Tips for Reducing Spray Drift Choose all products in the tank mix carefully. Understand the product mode of action and coverage requirements. Select (and check) the coarsest spray quality that will provide effective control. Expect that surface temperature inversions will form as sunset approaches and will likely persist overnight and even beyond sunrise on many occasions. DO NOT SPRAY. Use weather forecasts to inform your spray decisions. Only start spraying when the sun is about 20 degrees above the horizon and when the wind speed has been above 4–5 km/hr for more than 20–30 minutes, and clearly blowing away from any adjacent sensitive crops or areas. Set the boom height to achieve a double overlap of the spray patterns. Avoid higher spraying speeds. Leave buffers unsprayed if necessary and come back. Continue to monitor conditions, particularly wind speed, at the site during the spray operation High water rates don’t have to slow you down Some growers are concerned that increasing the water rate when applying herbicide will slow down their spray operation and cost them money. However, the biggest financial loss during spraying usually comes from a failed spray job. To keep your spray operation as time efficient as possible when using more effective and reliable application volumes, you can: Use nurse tanks around the farm to reduce the time spent travelling back to a central re-fill point. Use a larger pump, e.g. 2.5 inch, to make re-filling quicker. Pre-mix the batch while the sprayer is operating. Many mixes can be held in the mixing tank for up to 6 hours. However, wettable granules and suspension concentrates will need agitation to keep them in solution. For pre-emergent herbicides in high stubble situations, carrier volume has a large effect on the level of control achieved. Across four trial sites Dr Borger’s research demonstrated that ryegrass control with trifluralin or Sakura® increased from 53% control when the carrier volume was 30 L/ha to 78% control when the carrier volume was increased to 150 L water/ha in high Water quality and mixing order Water quality is often overlooked as a possible contributor to herbicide failure and can lead to confusion over the herbicide resistance status of weeds on a property. Water should be considered as one of the chemicals in any mix, given that water quality varies markedly depending on its source. Getting the mixing order right is essential for effective spray results. Don’t start mixing until the water quality is right Podcast – Mixing herbicides Adjuvants Sometimes adding an adjuvant is beneficial and sometimes it is detrimental; and there is an art to knowing how to best deploy these additives. When weeds are susceptible to the applied herbicides, the effectiveness of adjuvants generally goes un-noticed. Correctly applied adjuvants can reduce the impact of low level herbicide resistance by helping to maximise the amount of herbicide taken up by the plant.

Clean borders – avoid evolving resistance on the fence line

About one-quarter of glyphosate-resistant populations within broadacre cropping situations across Australia come from fencelines and other non-cropping areas of the farm. Along paddock borders, where there is no crop competition, weeds can flourish and, if not controlled, set lots of seed. The traditional approach has been to treat these weeds with glyphosate to keep borders clean but after 20-odd years this option is now failing and paddock borders are becoming a significant source of glyphosate-resistant weed seed. Weed researcher Eric Koetz said the limited options for managing weeds along irrigation infrastructure and other non-crop areas is a problem and is putting additional pressure on knock-down herbicides in irrigated systems. In some situations, cultivation can be used to kill the weeds and provide a firebreak, but on light soils this may pose an erosion risk and mowing or slashing may be safer options. Another possible tactic is to continue using herbicides but to ensure that a clean-up operation is carried out before any survivors can set seed. Some growers are choosing to increase the heat on weeds along the borders by planting the crop right to the fence and then baling the outside lap and spraying with a knockdown herbicide to kill any weeds and provide a firebreak. Another good option in some situations is to maintain a healthy border of vegetation using non-invasive grasses. In Queensland, buffel grass is a good example of a grass that can outcompete other weeds while not invading crop lands. If only herbicides are used on fencelines, resistance is inevitable. Surviving weeds on fencelines have no competition and access to plenty of soil moisture, so they set a lot of seed and resistance can easily flow into neighbouring paddocks. Other resources It’s time for a glyphosate intervention Farm hygiene cottons on – Cleave Rogan, St George What’s new in management of herbicide resistant weeds on fencelines? Keeping the farm clean – Graham Clapham, Norwin Don’t jeopardise glyphosate for clean fencelines Keeping fencelines clean Resistance risk to knock-down herbicides on irrigated cotton farms

Subscribe to the WeedSmart Newsletter