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Chaff deck concentrates weeds in controlled traffic

A move into controlled traffic ten years ago opened up an opportunity for Mark Wandel to avoid the need to burn stubble to control herbicide resistant annual ryegrass.


West Australian grain grower Mark Wandel concentrates harvest weed seeds into a single wheel track in their controlled traffic system.

Mark and his wife Hayley farm at Scaddan, 60 kilometres north of Esperance, Western Australia, managing a total cropping area of 6970 ha.

Starting in 2006 Mark and another grower, Owen Brownley, invented a ‘chaff blower and cyclone’ adaption on a harvester to deliver the weed-laden chaff into one tramline, or wheeltrack, while spreading the straw component evenly across the full width of the controlled traffic beds.

After a few years using this configuration Mark changed headers and developed a conveyor belt and 90 degree chaff deck system that can switch direction to always deliver chaff into the western tramline.

“We now have four harvesters fitted with the chaff deck and are very happy with the results we are getting, clearing weed seed from the beds and concentrating them in the one tramline where they are easier to treat,” says Mark.

“There are other chaff deck configurations that deliver the chaff into both tramlines but we have found the single chaff row works very well and reduces the weedy area that requires additional treatment.”

Mark gets the various components manufactured as required and then assembles and fits each chaff deck on-farm—the most recent build occurring just last year.

Before developing the chaff deck Mark used various techniques to manage weeds that were present at harvest including spraying under canola windrows, swathing barley, spraytopping legumes and burning narrow windrows.

Now he can retain all crop residues in the field regardless of the crop or seasonal conditions. He says that weed control results are best in wet years for two reasons—firstly because in-crop operations compact the tramlines making them a hostile environment for weeds to grow in and secondly, rain after harvest aids in the composting of the chaff in the tramline, which also kills a large proportion of the weed seeds.

Any rain over summer tends to pool in the tramlines and the wet chaff quickly rots away, taking the weed seed with it.

Weed seeds that survive in the wheeltrack face stiff competition for moisture, light and nutrients. These weeds are relatively easy to treat using glyphosate or paraquat through shielded units every 9 m on a 36 m boomspray.

Weed seeds that survive in the wheeltrack face stiff competition for moisture, light and nutrients. These weeds are relatively easy to treat using glyphosate or paraquat through shielded units every 9 m on a 36 m boomspray.

In drier years more weed seed survives and germinates but there is stiff competition for moisture, light and nutrients due to the concentration of weed seeds in the very narrow band. These weeds are relatively easy to treat using a 200 L tank on their 36 m boomspray to deliver glyphosate or paraquat through shielded units over the chaff row in the 9 metre wide controlled traffic system.

“This way we can apply herbicide to any ryegrass that does germinate in the tramline while spraying the crop with whatever herbicide or fungicide is needed,” he says.

“This system works well for managing resistant ryegrass and any volunteer wheat growing in our malt barley.”

There are now 40 chaff deck units in operation in the Esperance area, with another 30-odd expected to be in use this harvest. AHRI researchers plan to evaluate the efficacy of the chaff decks as a harvest weed seed control tactic in the near future and Mark Wandel is quietly confident that any scientific evaluation will confirm what he has observed over nearly ten years.

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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

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