Read time: 5 minutes

Can I retain stubble and keep weeds under control?

with Tony Swan, Senior Experimental Scientist, CSIRO Agriculture and Food

There are many benefits associated with retaining stubble, but zero till seeding into high stubble loads can be problematic, particularly in wetter seasons.

Tony Swan, Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food says growers can manage stubble without compromising weed, disease and pest management or the timeliness of the seeding operation.

Tony Swan, Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food says crop sequence, including a double-break, is an effective way to manage weeds, improve profit and manage stubble residues in southern grain farming systems, with or without livestock.

“Decisions at harvest, post-harvest/pre-sowing and at sowing influence the success of a seeding operation into stubble,” he says. “With a flexible approach, growers can manage stubble loads to suit their seeding operations, weed control tactics, herbicide choice and profit.”

“As a rule of thumb, the stubble load after harvest is 1.5 to 2 times the grain yield for wheat and 2 to 3 times the grain yield for canola,” says Mr Swan. “A high stubble load can create issues for all types of seeding systems by restricting herbicide choice, effectiveness, contact on the soil or weed target and even reduce crop emergence.”

In 2014 an experiment was established at Temora, NSW in a paddock with high levels of Group B resistance in annual ryegrass. The trial compared the yield, profit and annual ryegrass (ARG) population status in three management strategies in a no-till (tine opener) or zero tilled (disc opener) farming system.

Introducing more crop and herbicide diversity into the farming system generated a higher average net margin over three years while reducing the seedbank from 1864 plants per m2 to 351 plants per m2 in just 24 months. Following the wet 2016 season, with a soft late finish, three years of the diverse strategy (which included a double break) reduced the ryegrass seed bank by 70% compared to the aggressive (high input) strategy (145 cf 573 seeds/m2), while the conservative (low input) strategy increased the seedbank by 600% to above 4000 seeds/m2.

“Crop sequence is an effective way to manage weeds, improve profit and manage stubble residues in southern grain farming systems, with or without livestock,” says Mr Swan.

Mr Swan will be presenting his research into double-break cropping at the WeedSmart Forum on 21 August, in Wagga Wagga. Go to the website to register.

Does choice of seeder type influence weed control?

Short answer: In our experiment, after 3 years ARG seed numbers were generally lower when crops were sown with a tine seeder.

Longer answer: Averaged across the three management strategies, ARG seedbank populations were lower in tine seeded plots in 2016 (650 seeds/m2 in tine cf 1080 seeds/m2 in disc) and 2017 (384 seeds/m2 in tine cf 944 seeds/m2 in disc).

However, the use of expensive pre-emergent herbicides eliminated any significant difference in ARG seedbank populations in crops sown with a disc or tined seeder. In the conservative strategy where trifluralin can not be used with a disc seeder (not on label), the result was a higher ARG seedbank population (4045 seeds/m2) with a disc seeder compared to 1840 seeds/m2 with a tine seeder.

By February 2017, following the 2016 decile 9 season the lowest average ARG seedbank population was found in the diverse cropping strategy sown with a tine seeder (82 seeds/m2). In the conservative strategy weed populations continued to increase when sown with a tine seeder (2322 seeds/m2) and with a disc seeder (7631 seeds/m2).

Tony Swan inspecting the stubble management trial plots, looking at the ‘Conservative (lower input)’ second year wheat treatment sown with a tine seeder (left) compared to the ‘Conservative’ second year wheat treatment sown with a disc seeder where trifluralin could not be applied (not on label for disc seeders).

What options do I have if stubble is too thick to sow through?

Short answer: Reduce stubble load by grazing, baling, mulching, incorporating with nutrients, or use a strategic late burn.

Longer answer: Tine seeding systems will struggle to establish crops into large stubble loads >6 t/ha. While disc seeders may penetrate the stubble more easily and plant crop seeds into high stubble loads, patchy crop establishment and ineffective herbicide application can result in any seeding system sown into high stubble loads. Retaining stubble, with all its benefits, should not be allowed to compromise effective weed control. Mulching, incorporation and grazing all potentially retain more nutrients in situ however mulching or incorporation are likely to lead to nutrient tie-up in the soil unless additional nutrients are added.

Grazing and late burning both improve in-crop nitrogen availability, and often the yield of the following crop. It is not recommended to grow wheat after wheat unless the stubble from the first wheat crop is burnt or grazed, or supplementary nitrogen is applied to offset N immobilisation. To try and avoid burning at all costs, the best option is to sow a diverse crop sequence and use the legume crop to reduce the cereal stubble.

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Ask an Expert

What’s the benefit of a double paraquat knockdown?

The ‘double knock’ strategy has long been used and promoted as a valuable tool in the battle against glyphosate resistance in weeds, with paraquat typically applied to control weeds that survived the ‘first knock’ of glyphosate.  
James Jess, research and technical services manager, Western AG in Ballarat, says growers in his client group and beyond have used a double paraquat application to great effect this year, and avoided a very serious blow-out of glyphosate resistant annual ryegrass.
James Jess, research and technical services manager, Western AG in Ballarat. (Source: Syngenta)
“The 2020 season did not provide an opportunity for an effective pre-seeding knockdown and growers across the higher rainfall zones of Victoria found many large, well-tillered ryegrass plants flourishing in their crops,” he says. “We sent samples to Peter Boutsalis at Plant Science Consulting and the results of the Quick Test showed high levels of glyphosate resistance.”
The live plant samples sent to Plant Science Consulting were tested for their response to rates from 2 to 5 L/ha of 600 g active ingredient glyphosate, and many survived rates of 4 L/ha and above. Given the high level of resistance, Western AG put down a trial to compare a range of double knock options so they could give their clients more confidence going into the 2021 season.    
“We knew that the surviving plants growing in fields across the district would be setting a huge amount of seed and that growers would face a devastating situation unless we took decisive and effective action in 2021,” says James. “In the badly infested patches growers also took measures to reduce the amount of seed entering the seed bank at the end of the 2020 season using hay cutting or harvest weed seed control. In paddocks with mainly glyphosate susceptible ryegrass, desiccating feed barley is also a good way to drive down weed numbers.”
‘Double-knock to protect glyphosate’ is one of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics, which will be the centre of discussion at WeedSmart Week in Esperance, WA in August this year. This flagship event always attracts growers from interstate keen to see how other farmers are keeping weed numbers low in different systems. Early bird registration is now open.
What double-knock options did you trial?
In brief: 1. Glyphosate followed by paraquat and 2. two sequential paraquat applications.
The details: A series of timings were also tested for both the double knock options. Each of the ‘second knocks’ were applied 3, 7 and 12 days after the first knock application.
The two paraquat applications either 3 or 7 days apart were clearly effective in the trial, with the first paraquat application providing 90 per cent control of the glyphosate resistant ryegrass. This means that in a year where it is not possible to implement a double knock, we know that a single application of paraquat at robust rates will still do a good job of reducing weed numbers.

Get more details from the Western AG trial site report.
What advice did you give your clients going in to the 2021 season?
In brief: Delay seeding and implement a double paraquat knockdown.
The details: It was essential to get on top of the glyphosate resistance in ryegrass and avoid a blow-out. Last season the resistance level was high but the plants were still mainly found in manageable patches. Given the amount of seed that was likely added to the seed bank and potentially spread during harvest, it was essential that extra emphasis was put on having a clean seedbed going in to the 2021 season.
Once an effective knockdown has been applied we then recommend growers use a pre-emergent herbicide to reduce weed emergence when the crop is young. Later germinations are then suppressed by the competitive crop. In our trial we used Sakura incorporated by sowing (IBS), which provided excellent early weed control.
Has the recommendation been adopted successfully?
In brief: Yes, rapid and widespread adoption.
The details: There was immediate adoption of this tactic in response to the situation that emerged last season in the high rainfall zone of Victoria. Over 70 per cent of the Western AG client base in the higher rainfall western districts of Victoria implemented a double-paraquat application pre-seeding to target glyphosate resistant ryegrass before seeding the 2021 winter crop. This high level of adoption was a result of the strategy being actively promoted to clients, with the trial results giving growers the confidence to implement the recommendation.
The Western AG double knock trial last year provided growers with the confidence they needed to take decisive action on glyphosate resistant ryegrass before seeding the 2021 crop.
The blow-out was a real eye-opener for growers about how important it is to keep weed numbers low and the resistance mechanisms in play for all agricultural chemicals – not just herbicides.
The double paraquat tactic is also a good knockdown prior to sowing Roundup Ready canola to meet the stewardship requirements for using the RR technology.
Although resistance to paraquat is currently quite rare in annual ryegrass, it has been found in situations where paraquat has been applied at sub-lethal rates over a long period of time. There have also been new cases of paraquat resistance confirmed, and identified as developing, in ryegrass populations in WA, SA, Victoria and NSW this year.
With this in mind, a simple switch to double paraquat as a pre-seeding knockdown is not recommended as a standard practice but rather as a strategic tactic to contain glyphosate resistance in ryegrass. Once that has been achieved, a set of diverse strategies, including herbicide mixes, must be implemented and any survivors must be removed before they set seed.
Resources

Western AG Double knock field demo results – 2020
Double paraquat and RR canola – Podcast with Mark Lawrence 

Article
Ask an Expert

How do you manage summer weeds without spraying at night?

Concerns are being raised about the practical implications of this for summer weed control programs.
Mary O’Brien, a private consultant with extensive experience in managing spray drift, is keen to see growers fully adopt spray application practices that maximise herbicide efficacy and minimise off-target drift.
 
Mary O’Brien says the ‘community drift’ that can occur when a number of applicators are each putting a small amount of product in the air at the same time can have very damaging effects on off-target sites.
“The bottom line is that allowing spray to drift is like burning money,” she says. “Any product that doesn’t hit the target is wasted and the efficacy of the spray job is reduced, mildly resistant biotypes may survive as a result of low dose application and there is potential damage to sensitive crops and the environment.”
“The difficulty is that many growers want to spray at night to cover more ground when conditions are cooler and potentially weeds are less stressed. Having a restriction on night spraying does restrict the time available to cover the areas required.”
Having heard these concerns from growers across the country Mary keeps coming back to the fact that if there was a limitation to capacity at planting or at harvest, growers would scale up to get the job done in a timely manner.
“Buying another spray rig or employing a contractor is an additional cost, especially after a couple of tough seasons, but I really think this is insignificant against the cost of losing key products and the resultant escalation in herbicide resistance to the remaining herbicides,” says Mary. “This problem is not confined to 2,4-D or even to herbicides. I recently spoke to a stone fruit grower who was forced to dump his whole crop after a positive MRL return for a fungicide he had never even heard of, let alone used.”
What about just slowing down and lowering the boom during night spraying?
Short answer: This, coupled with a good nozzle, will reduce drift but it will never eliminate it.
Longer answer: The correct ground speed and boom height will have a large effect on the amount of product that remains in the air. The problem is that it only takes 1 per cent of the product remaining in the air to cause off-target damage.
Once there are a few operators putting just 1 per cent of their product in the air at the same time, the amount of product quickly accumulates and can potentially be very damaging. Mary calls this ‘community drift’.
Isn’t it better to spray weeds at night when it’s cooler?
Short answer: Not really.
Longer answer: Research by Bill Gordon showed that even if you keep everything else the same, night spraying can put at least three times more product in the air than daytime application, even if weather conditions are similar and there is no temperature inversion in place. The main difference between day and night is how the wind is moving across the landscape, rather than the wind speed.
Under inversion conditions, the air moves parallel to the ground surface and this means that the product can move significant distances away from the target before coming to the ground.
To achieve the best results through daytime spraying, applicators should focus on treating small, actively growing weeds. When there is good soil moisture, weeds are unlikely to be stressed even when the temperature is quite high.
Temperature inversion conditions are more common at night and in the early morning. These conditions generate a laminar flow of air across the landscape allowing small droplets to travel many kilometres away from the target site before coming to ground.
Can I use other products at night and just avoid using 2,4-D?
Short answer: The current changes to 2,4-D labels has drawn a lot of attention but the problem is the same for all crop protection sprays – herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
Longer answer: Different products have different properties and some may work better at night but the problem is the sensitivity of some crops to certain products, such as 2,4-D. All products are tested for their efficacy and the label provides detailed information about the required spray quality and spray application conditions. Many products have explicit label instructions regarding wind speed, temperature inversions (or laminar flow) and night spraying.
Given the high risk of drift at night, applicators need to be very confident that there is no inversion present, and weather conditions should be measured at least every 15 minutes to ensure wind speed remains above 11 kilometres per hour. An on-board weather station is the best way to monitor conditions.
A visual demonstration using smoke to simulate the the lateral movement of small spray droplets when a temperature inversion is in place.
What can I do to improve spray efficacy and avoid spray drift?
Short answer: If you do just one thing – change your nozzle.
Longer answer: All the factors that increase drift also reduce efficacy. To improve efficacy and reduce drift, use a better nozzle (larger spray quality) and appropriate water rates (matched to spray quality and stubble load), slow down and keep the boom low. Wind is required to push product downward and onto the target, and remember that the 3–15 km/h wind speed is for day time conditions only, this does not apply at night.

Article
Ask an Expert

Does ambient temperature affect herbicide performance?

with Chris Preston, Associate Professor, Weed Management
 at 
The University of Adelaide
Temperature affects the absorption, translocation and metabolic degradation of herbicides applied to plants. Herbicides applied under the wrong conditions can appear to fail, however the reason may not be herbicide resistance.
Dr Chris Preston, Associate Professor, Weed Management
 at The University of Adelaide says most herbicides have a temperature range at which they are most effective in controlling target weeds.
“Applying herbicides outside the optimal temperature range is likely to contribute to a spray failure, even in susceptible populations,” he says. “Alternatively, applying herbicides within the correct temperature range can improve the control in populations known to have a level of resistance to that herbicide.”
Dr Chris Preston suggests testing whole plants rather than seed for responses to a range of post-emergent herbicides. The Quick-Test is conducted in the same growing season as herbicide will be applied so the testing will occur under similar conditions to field conditions.
Dr Preston says the effect of frost on the efficacy of clethodim is a striking example. Spraying clethodim in non-frosty conditions achieves vastly better results than spraying after three days of frost, even on populations that are resistant to this chemical mode of action.
“Combining the optimal temperature with optimal weed size will give the best results possible,” he says. “The current common practice of applying clethodim to tillered ryegrass in the coldest months is not making the best use of this herbicide.”
As a general rule of thumb, Group A (fops), paraquat (Group L) and glyphosate (Group M) are more effective at lower temperatures while Group A (dims), atrazine (Group C) and glufosinate (Group N) are more effective at higher temperatures. However, weeds that are resistant to paraquat become less resistant in warmer temperatures.
“The other implication of this research is the effect of ambient temperature on herbicide test results,” says Dr Preston. “Seed collected in winter and grown out in the glasshouse in summer will be tested for resistance in conditions that are not representative of field conditions when growers are next treating that weed species. The Quick-Test using whole plants overcomes this problem and improves the reliability of herbicide susceptibility testing.”
How can I get the best performance out of clethodim?
Short answer: Avoid applying clethodim during frosty periods.
Longer answer: Twice as much clethodim is required to kill susceptible annual ryegrass if the product is applied after three days of frost. Even higher rates are required if the plants have resistance to clethodim.
Planning to apply clethodim for grass control outside the coldest months of June and July, and avoiding night spraying in winter, will see better results in both resistant and susceptible populations, particularly in tillered plants. Clethodim is most active when temperatures are over 20 degrees C.
Weed seed that is tested during summer may return false negative results, which could translate into spray failure in the field the next season.
Twice as much clethodim is required to kill susceptible annual ryegrass if the product is applied after three days of frost. Even higher rates are required if the plants have resistance to clethodim.
When it is it too hot for glyphosate?
Short answer: Efficacy is much better at 20 degrees C than at 30 degrees C.
Longer answer: Spraying glyphosate resistant barnyard grass at lower temperatures is more effective than under hotter conditions. If barnyard grass is tested for herbicide resistance during the cooler parts of the year it may appear susceptible to the field rate of glyphosate but then when this rate is applied to the population in summer there may be many survivors.
When glyphosate is taken up rapidly it tends to limit its own translocation, which can mean that although symptoms may appear more rapidly in warmer temperatures, plant kill is less reliable.
Which herbicide resistance test should I use?
Short answer: The weed resistance Quick-Test for post-emergent herbicides.
Longer answer: The Quick-Test involves testing whole plants rather than seed for responses to a range of herbicides and rates. The Quick-Test is conducted in the same growing season as herbicide will be applied so the testing will occur under similar conditions to field conditions. The results of the Quick-Test are available within the same season, potentially giving growers an opportunity to apply an effective weed control tactic before the end of the season. The Quick-Test is not available for many pre-emergent herbicides.
The Quick-Test is available through Plant Science Consulting and results are normally available after four weeks.
Relevant links

Maximising clethodim performance and the impact of frost fact sheet
Keeping clethodim working in broafleaf crops
Plant Science Consulting herbicide resistance testing – Quick-Test
GRDC Update Paper – New developments and understanding in resistance mechanisms and management

Webinars

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Video
Webinar

Ryegrass management in the High Rainfall Zone – What have we learnt?

This webinar was hosted by Jana Dixon, WeedSmart’s High Rainfall Zone extension agronomist.

Video
Webinar

Considerations for pre-emergent herbicides with dry sowing

In this webinar, we focus on what factors influence the residual control of weeds by pre-emergent herbicides with a focus on Trifluralin, Sakura and new-to-market herbicides.
Join Chris Davey, YPAG and WeedSmart Extension Agronomist and Mark Congreve, ICAN Senior Agronomist as they assess the sowing issues in South Australia and discuss strategies on using pre-emergents.
Factors covered include

Soil type/texture
Rainfall forecast (after application)
Characteristics of the herbicide
Characteristics of the crop
Sowing time (tine vs disc) – sowing depth, speed, soil throw, stubble
Resistance status

GRDC Spray Application Manual
This Spray Application GrowNotes™ manual provides information on how various spraying systems and components work, along with those factors that the operator should consider to ensure the sprayer is operating to its full potential.
This manual focuses on issues that will assist in maintaining the accuracy of the sprayer output while improving the efficiency and safety of spraying operations. It contains many useful tips for your spray operations.

Video
Webinar

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.

Videos

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Video
Webinar

Ryegrass management in the High Rainfall Zone – What have we learnt?

This webinar was hosted by Jana Dixon, WeedSmart’s High Rainfall Zone extension agronomist.

Video
Video

WeedSmart Shorts: What considerations should be made for glyphosate tolerant canola?

 
Jump to a section

Simon’s client experience with RR Canola and decision-making process 00:27
What’s the decision-making process when it comes to growing a glyphosate tolerant variety over conventional/TT canola? 01:36
Herbicide strategy & resistance testing: 02:44
Timing of glyphosate sprays 05:02
Varietal performance 07:06
Broadleaf weeds 09:33
Dealing with survivors, WeedSmart Big 6 11:12
Desiccation & windrowing 13:48
GM canola marketing 14:46
On-farm storage 15:14

In this new segment, WeedSmart Shorts, our expert agronomists around the country interview experts on topics in a ‘Question and Answer’ video format.
Simon was kind enough to be our first guest and Jana covers lots of important points with him throughout the interview. Above, you can find what questions are covered if you’d like to jump to one of the specific topics highlighted.
Simon says there has been uptake by his clients of glyphosate tolerant canola in South Australia, but there has been a varied response.

“We are finding that some are wanting to try a paddock, some are wanting to sit back and see how it goes. So, it is probably very similar to what happened in Victoria when it rolled out there as an option,” he says.
South Australian farmers in the past have been able to control the weeds with the existing canola options they have, says Simon, but what they are finding now is there is an increase in clethodim resistance, particularly at higher rates and so that is what is likely to be driving the decision-making process around what other canola options are available, such as RR canola.
While it is exciting to have another option for SA growers, Simon says it is critical that growers know their ryegrass resistance status before committing to planting glyphosate tolerant canola.
“Testing is the backbone behind the decision making around canola options and so once we’re aware of what herbicides still work effectively, that’s where we’re able to make a good, informed decision.”
Simon said it was important to know what works on ryegrass across the whole spectrum of herbicide groups.
“An example is, I did some testing for a new client recently and one of his populations came back as 80% resistant to glyphosate. Now, had we not done that test and put glyphosate resistant canola into that paddock, we would’ve been facing a disaster, but because we had that information on hand, we knew what our options were and what they weren’t,” Simon says.
 
 

Video
Webinar

Considerations for pre-emergent herbicides with dry sowing

In this webinar, we focus on what factors influence the residual control of weeds by pre-emergent herbicides with a focus on Trifluralin, Sakura and new-to-market herbicides.
Join Chris Davey, YPAG and WeedSmart Extension Agronomist and Mark Congreve, ICAN Senior Agronomist as they assess the sowing issues in South Australia and discuss strategies on using pre-emergents.
Factors covered include

Soil type/texture
Rainfall forecast (after application)
Characteristics of the herbicide
Characteristics of the crop
Sowing time (tine vs disc) – sowing depth, speed, soil throw, stubble
Resistance status

GRDC Spray Application Manual
This Spray Application GrowNotes™ manual provides information on how various spraying systems and components work, along with those factors that the operator should consider to ensure the sprayer is operating to its full potential.
This manual focuses on issues that will assist in maintaining the accuracy of the sprayer output while improving the efficiency and safety of spraying operations. It contains many useful tips for your spray operations.

Factsheets

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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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