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Maximising the weed control value of my crop rotation
with Kevin Morthorpe, Trait & Seed Technology Stewardship Manager, Pioneer Seeds A diverse crop rotation is the twine that holds a good farming system together and underpins an effective weed management program. Kevin Morthorpe, Pioneer Seeds’ Trait & Seed Technology Stewardship Manager says herbicide tolerance traits in crop hybrids can be used to maximise competition against weeds and increase the herbicide options available to growers while optimising yield and profitability of the crop sequence in rotations. Kevin Morthorpe (left) – Pioneer Seeds’ Trait & Seed Technology Stewardship Manager, with Dr Ray Cowley – Canola Research Scientist, Corteva Agriscience and Pioneer Seeds’ Rob Wilson – Strategic Customer & Market Development Manager and Clint Rogers – Western Regional Sales Manager & Canola Product Lead at a canola research trial near Jindera in southern NSW. Plant breeders continue to introduce herbicide tolerance traits in a number of crops in Australia, including corn, canola, pulses, cereals, grain sorghum, summer forages and cotton. “For example, in canola there are several herbicide tolerance traits and they are primarily available in hybrids,” he says. “This means growers get both improved crop performance due to hybrid vigour and more flexibility in herbicide use patterns.” The increased vigour of canola hybrids also generates greater biomass production and early canopy closure that suppresses growth and seed set of weeds that germinate in-crop, complementing the use of pre-emergent herbicides. “Hybrids super-charge crop competition through a strong root system and vigorous growth,” Kevin says. “From an economic angle, hybrids optimise yield in both high input and tough environments. In fact, we see more growers selecting hybrids when producing canola in tough conditions.” Since the release of the first herbicide tolerant canola in 1991, the popularity of herbicide tolerance has seen a 98 per cent adoption of canola varieties with tolerance to imidazolinone (Clearfield), triazine (TT) or glyphosate (RR). In the last 15 years, the area sown to hybrid canola has risen to an impressive 47 per cent in Australia. With glyphosate tolerant canola hybrids entering South Australia in 2021 and new hybrid releases, the hybrid percentage will increase further over coming years. With glyphosate tolerant canola hybrids entering South Australia in 2021 and new hybrid releases, the hybrid percentage will increase further over coming years. Kevin says that Pioneer Seeds have seen increasing demand for Clearfield canola in recent years following a dip in popularity. Through strategic application of herbicide tolerant traits in diverse crop rotations it seems that farmers are overcoming the resistance problems that were prevalent with the Clearfield technology and can now re-introduce these varieties and take advantage of the weed control benefits and high yields they offer, and manage herbicide residues in the soil. “A diverse rotation of crops and pastures is one of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics, which Pioneer Seeds endorses wholeheartedly to protect the longevity and effectiveness of herbicide tolerance traits,” he says. “Through an effective crop rotation you can tick off all the herbicide and non-herbicide tactics needed to drive down weed numbers.” How do I make the most of a hybrid crop? In brief: Employ best practice agronomy. The details: Grain hybrids are vigorous plants that produce increased biomass and grain yield. To do this, they must be supported with adequate crop nutrition. When properly fed, hybrids will provide increased crop competition and achieve greater water use efficiency compared to their conventional counterparts. Growing a hybrid crop with herbicide tolerance traits does not equate to a full weed control program. These crops must be used within the WeedSmart Big 6 framework, within a diverse crop rotation and using herbicide tactics such as double knocking alongside cultural practices such as harvest weed seed control and crop competition to reduce seed set. They also combine well with pre-emergent herbicides to achieve excellent early weed control and suppress seed set in any late germinating weeds. Can I use hybrid crops with herbicide tolerance to fix a weed blow-out? In brief: No. This technology is not suitable for salvage operations. The details: When Roundup Ready canola varieties were first released there was an expectation that these traits could be used to reverse a weed infestation. This proved not to be the case. Hybrid crops are best used in low weed density situations where they can effectively drive down the weed seedbank. They should be grown in rotations that include an effective double-break, brown manure crop or a pasture phase. Having hybrid crop options for both summer and winter growing seasons increases the opportunities to tackle weeds throughout the year or to use different fallow herbicides while maintaining the ability to safely grow crops in the following season. New glyphosate tolerance traits (Truflex® and Optimum GLY®) and the stacking of herbicide tolerance traits of triazine tolerant and Clearfield® (TT+CL) have expanded the safe window for herbicide application in canola. Are residues in grain a concern when using stacked trait herbicide tolerant hybrids? In brief: Not if the stewardship program is followed. The details: New glyphosate tolerance traits (Truflex® and Optimum GLY®) and the stacking of herbicide tolerance traits of triazine tolerant and Clearfield® (TT+CL) have expanded the safe window for herbicide application in canola. This gives more options, more flexibility and more crop safety through the rotation. The stewardship program for the herbicide tolerant trait hybrids describe herbicide use patterns that growers must follow to confidently avoid the accumulation of herbicide residue in the grain and ensure that Australian maximum residue limits (MRLs) will not be exceeded. [Note that MRLs in other countries may be different to the Australian MRL. Find out more at Grain Trade Australia] To avoid problems with crop safety within the rotation it is important to maintain accurate paddock records to avoid applying herbicide to the wrong crop variety and ensure susceptible crops are not sown into paddocks with herbicide residues in the soil. On the flip-side, herbicide tolerance in crops increases the options for crop selection within the rotation. Also, keep in mind the importance of controlling any volunteers from a herbicide tolerant crop in the summer fallow or following crop.
Harvest weed seed control in a nutshell
*Note: In Australia we call the whole machine a harvester, not just the cutting front. At harvest time many weeds that have grown in the crop still have seed held in the seed head. These seeds enter the harvester along with the grain and most exit the harvester and are spread across the paddock in the chaff and straw. Collecting these weed seeds at harvest and either destroying them or depositing them in a known location where they can be monitored and controlled later, is an excellent way to stop weeds in their tracks. Brome grass is the most costly weed for Mallee farmers to manage, even though herbicide resistance in brome grass is currently low in the region. If you are considering adding harvest weed seed control (HWSC) to your weed control program there are excellent resources on the WeedSmart website to help guide you through the initial decisions and the implementation of this important weed control tool. Key messages: Decide on which system fits your farm best. Get maximum weed seed into the header. Know how to manage the collected weed seed. Which system is best? HWSC is being rapidly adopted in Australia and other countries around the world. There are six systems currently being used on Australian farms and they have all been developed by farmers. Research has demonstrated that all are very effective weed control tactics, achieving over 80 per cent control and for some nearly 100 per cent. There are six systems currently used to collect and manage weed seed at harvest: chaff carts chaff lining chaff decks (chaff tramlining) impact mills Bale Direct narrow windrow burning While they are all effective, they vary considerably in capital and ownership cost, nutrient removal costs, operational costs and labour costs. Some HWSC tactics involve the purchase of substantial machinery – such as an impact mill, chaff cart or chaff deck – but the operational and labour costs might be lower than methods such as narrow windrow burning, which involves low set-up costs but higher nutrient losses and labour costs associated with burning. Invariably narrow windrow burning is the most expensive option in the long-run due to the high nutrient removal cost. To calculate the cost of each method for your farm you can use a calculator developed by AHRI’s Peter Newman. https://www.weedsmart.org.au/calculating-the-cost-of-hwsc-for-your-farm/ The HWSC tools all involve some modification to the harvester. The simplest modification is for chaff lining and narrow windrow burning, where a simple chute is attached to the rear of the harvester to direct the residue into a band on the ground, running the same direction as the harvester has travelled. These chutes are often constructed and fitted on-farm. All the other systems are commercial modifications that are fitted to the harvester – chaff decks and impact mills – or trail behind the harvester – chaff cart and Bale Direct. WeedSmart resources: Videos from the HWSC course outline the science and practice of HWSC https://www.weedsmart.org.au/resources/hwsc/ Calculating the cost of HWSC https://www.weedsmart.org.au/calculating-the-cost-of-hwsc-for-your-farm/ Stepping into chaff lining https://www.weedsmart.org.au/stepping-into-chaff-lining/ Using your harvester to destroy weed seeds https://www.weedsmart.org.au/using-your-harvester-to-destroy-weed-seeds/ Get the weed seeds into the header Harvest weed seed control only works on weed seed that enters the header. Getting the weed seed into the header relies on the seed being held in the seed head at the time of harvest. The seed head must also be at harvestable height. Consider the weed spectrum and the likelihood of seed capture. Even if some seed has shed, chances are there will be other seed heads that have not yet shed and even this will assist with reducing the amount of seed entering the seed bank. There are four chaff-only systems and two all-residue systems. The chaff-only systems – chaff carts, chaff lining, chaff decks and impact mills – require the harvester to be set up to separate chaff and straw, and to keep the weed seed in the chaff stream. This may require modifications to the harvester rotor and sieves and the installation of a baffle to keep the weed seed in the chaff stream. If you choose the Bale Direct system or narrow windrow burning, all the straw and chaff ends up in the same place, so no other modification to the harvester is needed. WeedSmart resources: Harvester setup for HWSC https://www.weedsmart.org.au/webinars/harvester-set-up-for-harvest-weed-seed-control-hwsc-for-all-header-colours/ Getting weed seed into the chaff stream https://www.weedsmart.org.au/setting-up-harvesters-to-capture-weed-seed-in-the-chaff/ Using HWSC in different weed spectrums https://www.weedsmart.org.au/is-harvest-weed-seed-control-a-real-option-for-managing-northern-region-weeds/ Manage the weed seed after harvest If you choose an impact mill as your HWSC tool then the tactic is completed in one pass at harvest, with nothing extra to do. All the residue is spread in the field and the weed seeds are rendered unviable. All the other HWSC tools involve some action after harvest to remove or destroy the weed seed collected at harvest. Chaff decks deposit the weed seed-laden chaff in one or both harvester tramlines or wheeltracks. Some growers find that the chaff rots and the weed seeds die, but in other environments growers find that it is necessary to control weeds that germinate in the tramlines using herbicide or non-herbicide tactics applied just to the tramlines. Chaff carts can be emptied as they fill in the paddock or emptied at a central point. Many growers use chaff piles as a high nutrient value stockfeed, others burn the piles and others leave them unburned in the paddock and sow through them the following season. Chaff lines are usually left unmanaged with the expectation that the following crop will provide adequate competition to the weeds to minimise weed growth and seed production. The Bale Direct system results in large bales of crop residue that can be sold into suitable markets. Distance to market is usually an important factor in the success of this system for HWSC. Narrow windrow burning uses fire to destroy the weed seed in the Autumn following harvest. There are significant labour costs and safety risks to consider along with the loss nutrients and ground cover. Key resources to learn more: Diversity Era online course – Harvest weed seed control 101 https://www.diversityera.com/courses/harvest-weed-seed-control-101 Kondinin Group Residue Management at Harvest – Weed Seed Options research report https://www.weedsmart.org.au/app/uploads/2018/06/RR_1802_weedsmart.pdf Kondinin Group Harvest Weed Seed Warriors research report https://www.weedsmart.org.au/app/uploads/2020/05/RR_February_2020_Weedsmart.WS_.2020.pdf Grower experiences: Chaff decks and chaff lining in a high rainfall zone https://www.weedsmart.org.au/case-studies/esperance-growers-using-chaff-decks-and-chaff-lining/ Keeping pressure on brome grass with HWSC https://www.weedsmart.org.au/case-studies/bruce-family-alford-sa/
Implementing ‘mix and rotate’ strategy to combat herbicide resistance
with Tony Lockrey, consulting agronomist, AMPS Moree Mixing and rotating herbicide modes of action is a key strategy in the WeedSmart Big 6 – but it’s a herbicide response to a herbicide problem. So, while it’s critical, it must be implemented within a diverse weed management program. Tony Lockrey, senior agronomist with AMPS Agribusiness at Moree has seen herbicide resistance get out of control on some farms in northern NSW while other growers have responded early and managed to maintain a broader spectrum of effective herbicides in their program. AMPS Moree consulting agronomist Tony Lockrey has seen good results when herbicides are rotated and mixed in each phase – the fallow, pre-sowing, in-crop and for desiccation. “It has to start with herbicide resistance testing – specifically for susceptibility,” he says. “Knowing what does work is very important as you’ve probably already got a fair idea about what doesn’t.” Once all the effective actives are ‘on the table’ it’s time to look at what crops can be grown to allow the use of the widest range of herbicide groups in the rotation, and where you might be able to find synergistic mixes that can further delay resistance and potentially allow the use of actives that are no longer effective on their own. “When we sit down to plan out an integrated weed control program we want to make sure there is rotation and mixing going on in each phase – in the fallow, pre-sowing, in-crop and for desiccation, where required,” says Tony. “When this is done in conjunction with a determination to stop seed set and remove survivors then it is possible to keep weed numbers low.” With an increasing number of proprietary herbicide mixes coming onto the market and the broad spectrum of synergistic and antagonistic interactions between potential mixing partners it pays to be well-informed and to seek advice. If I already rotate modes of action why do I have to mix too? Short answer: Rotation buys you time; mixing buys you shots. Mixing and rotating buys you time and shots. Longer answer: Rotation of effective modes of action can significantly delay the onset of herbicide resistance and needs to be built into your crop rotation plan. Herbicides in Group A and Group B are particularly susceptible to multiple exposure resistance with as few as six exposures being enough to select for the resistant mutation. By mixing MOA groups, either in the same tank mix or applied separately to the same population (like a double knock), those plants that survive one MOA are often killed by the second. How does testing for susceptibility help when there’s a weed blow-out? Short answer: Knowing what will work against a resistant population helps drive down the seed bank and helps you regain control. Longer answer: One real-world example is a paddock near Moree where Group A resistant wild oats were discovered in 1998 following a history of repeated use of Topik® (Group A – fop), Verdict® (Group A – fop) and, later, Axial® (Group A – den). Testing of this population showed the wild oats was very susceptible to Group B sulfonylurea, so Atlantis was used to drive down the weed numbers. A new plan was then put in place with Groups B, A, C and M used across the winter cropping program, but there was still too much reliance on Group B. The current plan for the farm now includes pre-emergent herbicides from Groups K, J and D used individually and in mixes. How do I integrate more mixes into my herbicide program? Short answer: Look for opportunities for synergistic mixes throughout the fallow and cropping seasons. In many instances the most important mixing partner is more water. Longer answer: Many growers are looking for tank mixes to improve control of glyphosate-resistant seedlings. Knowing which mixtures are beneficial and which are antagonistic is important. In the fallow, there are often opportunities to use the mix and rotate strategy to great effect in a double-knock application, such as: Group M (glyphosate) + Group I (2,4-D or fluroxypyr or picloram) followed by Group L (paraquat) Group M (glyphosate) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group G (Sharpen® or flumioxazin) Group M (glyphosate) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group K (Dual® Gold) Group A (Shogun®) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group K (Dual® Gold) The fleabane on the right was unresponsive to glyphosate on its own but mixing picloram with triclopyr or 2,4 D to the glyphosate application was effective (left). Pre-plant examples include paraquat plus a triazine herbicide (Group C) or paraquat plus an imidazalinone (Group B), which are commonly used to provide broad spectrum knockdown and residual control. Dual® Gold (Group K) is another common fallow residual option which is very compatible with glyphosate, triazines and paraquat. An example of an in-crop mix is the addition of clethodim to haloxyfop (both Group A) to improve control of fop-resistant grasses in broadleaf crops where both are registered. At the end of the season there is also some opportunity to mix desiccants for some crops. None of these mixes are provided as recommendations – seek advice for your own situation and always read and follow the label. What about application set up for mixtures? Short answer: Some herbicides require better coverage. In many instances the most important mixing partner is more water. Longer answer: Suitable product and water rates, droplet size and the right adjuvant, are critical for optimising herbicide efficacy. For example, while a fallow mix such as glyphosate plus a Group A, or a Group G (depending on the target weed), is physically compatible, the components have different requirements for optimal performance. Seek advice about the best water rate to use, the potential impact of an oil-based adjuvant (required for most Group A and Group G herbicides) on glyphosate efficacy for some summer grass weeds, and other possible risks. Factsheet – Mixing knockdown partners with Group G How do I avoid generating multiple and cross-resistance? Short answer: Implement as many different weed control strategies as possible. The WeedSmart Big 6 is a practical foundation for an integrated program of herbicide and non-herbicide tactics. Longer answer: Rotating and mixing herbicide groups can give you room to move in holding off resistance or getting more out of some marginally effective products. The only way to stave off herbicide resistance completely is to have low weed numbers and to be vigilant about preventing survivors from setting seed. Have a diverse cropping program, use herbicides to provide early weed control, set your crops up to compete strongly and monitor and remove survivor weeds.