Read time: 4 minutes

Big 6 winter – 4. Crop competition

A competitive crop will suffer less yield loss at the hands of the weeds, and will also reduce seed set of the weeds compared to an un-competitive crop. In other words more crop, fewer weeds.

Principle #1Stay ahead of the pack

Crop competition with weeds is a ‘winner-takes-all’ battle. When the crop wins their is higher grain yield plus lower weed biomass and lower seed set.

For the crop to win this battle it is very important to give it a head start with effective early weed control. Keeping the crop weed free for the first three to six weeks seems to be a practical target.

To maximise the effectiveness of using the crop as a weed control tactic, start planning the year ahead and do everything possible to reduce the weed seed bank using effective herbicides, weed seed burial, competitive cultivars and harvest weed seed control tactics or hay-making. Back this up with registered pre-emergents and as many non-herbicide tactics in-crop as possible.

Principle #2 Adopt at least one competitive strategy (but two is better)

There are six main avenues to increase crop competition:

1. Increased seed rate
2. Narrower row spacing – without changing seeding rate)
3. Row orientation – sowing east-west where practical
4. Crop choices – more competitive species and / or variety
5. Soil health – less compaction, fix pH and nutrient limitations
6. Time of sowing – early sowing is usually best

It’s hard to include all six in every crop or every paddock – the more you can do the better the odds for your crops to suppress weed growth and seed set.

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/whats-the-best-way-to-out-compete-resistant-annual-ryegrass-in-cereals/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/whats-the-best-way-to-manage-annual-ryegrass-in-chickpea-crops/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/sow-east-west/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/paired-rows-give-entry-level-crop-competition/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/taking-the-competition-to-the-weeds/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/crop-competition-give-your-crops-the-edge/

https://www.weedsmart.org.au/up-the-competition-with-professor-of-agricultural-innovation-deirdre-lemerle/



1. Rotate crops and pastures

2. Double knock – to preserve glyphosate

3. Mix and rotate herbicides

4. Stop weed seed set

5. Crop competition

6. Harvest weed seed control – the holy grail

WeedSmart Wisdom

Related Articles

View all
Article
News

WeedSmart agronomist set to tackle high rainfall zone weeds

Every locality has its own spectrum of weeds, and growers face different opportunities and challenges regarding the control tactics they can employ.
The WeedSmart Big 6 approach is a practical way to ensure that an integrated weed management program is put in place that disrupts weed seed production and the evolution of herbicide resistance.
Commencing in January 2021, Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria.
Jana will add to the dedicated and experienced extension agronomists on the WeedSmart team with Peter Newman in the Western region, Chris Davey in the South, Greg and Kirrily Condon in the East and Paul McIntosh in the North.
Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria.
Jana hails from the Mid North of SA, and began working at Pinion Advisory (previously Rural Directions) while she was studying agriculture at the University of Adelaide. She has been employed full-time at Pinion Advisory since January 2019 as an agribusiness consultant, based in Clare, and spends most of her time delivering agronomy and farm business advice to clients from a wide range of cropping regions in South Australia.
Pinion Advisory is a foundation WeedSmart sponsor and Jana has been involved in two WeedSmart Week events already – the first as a participant and grower group organiser at the Horsham event in 2019 and then as the local organiser for WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare.
In welcoming her to the WeedSmart team, program manager Lisa Mayer says Jana brings energy, commitment and insight to deliver communications focussed on the southern region’s high rainfall regions.
“Growers in the southern high rainfall zones are facing some serious issues with herbicide resistance influencing their farming decisions,” says Ms Mayer. “Jana will be engaging with agronomists, growers and researchers in each of the distinct high rainfall zones to understand the complexities and look for practical ways to apply the WeedSmart Big 6 in various cropping scenarios.”
“We plan to deliver WeedSmart Week in Esperance, part of Western Australia’s high rainfall cropping zone, in August 2021 and Jana will play a key role in the planning and delivering of our annual 3-day flagship event.”
Jana says her experience with the WeedSmart program has been very positive and she has been particularly impressed with the support the program has from all sectors of the grains industry.
Newly appointed WeedSmart extension agronomist, Jana Dixon (green cap) leading discussions with farm visit host, Ben Marshman, Owen SA, and growers and agronomists attending WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare.
“I have spoken to many growers and agronomists who have found real value in the information that the WeedSmart program delivers,” she says. “For many it is as much about considering another operator’s philosophy on dealing with weeds, and taking a fresh look at their own systems, rather than just learning about a new tactic or the traits of a new herbicide in isolation from the big picture.”
She says the high calibre of industry people who contribute their time and expertise to the program is testament to the value WeedSmart has to agribusiness, growers, agronomists and researchers alike.
In taking on the responsibility for delivering information tailored for the high rainfall zones Jana says she is pleased to have an extensive network of contacts through Pinion Advisory, with offices in a number of high rainfall areas to provide easy access to local agronomists and growers. She is also aware that there are major differences in weed spectrums and farming systems in each high rainfall zone and plans to take full advantage of the opportunity this role presents to expand her understanding of different approaches to weed management.
“The long and favourable growing season and the associated prolonged periods of weed germination, is a key factor that I see potentially impacting on a grower’s weed management strategies in these regions,” she says. “On the other hand, access to highly diverse rotations and a focus on crop competition are two strategies that can play an important role in achieving excellent weed management in these regions.”
“I am keen to engage with anyone working and farming in the high rainfall zones to build my knowledge and understanding,” she says. “And to create opportunities to develop and extend the WeedSmart Big 6 strategies, both herbicide and non-herbicide, that work in each area and in different situations.”
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.
You an follow Jana on Twitter and keep up to date with the HRZ here.

Article
Article

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.

Article
Article

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/

 

 

Subscribe to the WeedSmart Newsletter