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FTR grass demands attention to stop seed set

Feathertop Rhodes (FTR) grass is quickly becoming one of the biggest weed threats in Australian farming systems, demanding swift and decisive action.The vast number of seeds produced per plant and the species’ ability to germinate and establish on very small rainfall events, gives this weed a real competitive advantage, particularly in a fallow situation.

Feathertop Rhodes grass is a serious weed challenging no-till farming in Australia.

In the northern cropping region researchers have observed FTR grass (Chloris virgata) germinating almost all year round, at temperatures ranging from 15/5° to 35/25°C (day/night temperatures). While many seedlings that establish in winter are killed by frost, some will survive and it only takes a few plants to produce a large number of viable seeds for the next generation.

Recent research by Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) weed researcher, Dr Bhagirath Chauhan has demonstrated that some populations of FTR grass are producing seed that is capable of germinating just two weeks after they mature.

“Night temperature does affect seed production of feathertop Rhodes grass so it is important to concentrate efforts on preventing germination or controlling these weed populations in spring and early summer,” says Dr Chauhan. “These early germinated populations are also more able to compete with summer crops and then set seed in-crop.”

Being able to tolerate both knockdown and residual (pre-emergent) herbicides, FTR grass can quickly gain a foothold in no-till farming systems. No-till and stubble retention also provide a favourable environment for germination, establishment and survival of FTR grass because of the moist soil conditions around the weed seed.

An integrated approach, like the WeedSmart Big 6, is needed to tackle this serious weed before it forces a return to full cultivation for weed control.

Diverse crop rotations – FTR grass is a year-round weed. Having diverse and competitive crops in rotation reduces the risk of a blow-out situation.

Mix and rotate herbicide MOA – FTR grass is not reliably controlled with a single post-emergent herbicide application. To be effective, the weeds must be sprayed when they are very young and not stressed.

At this stage, high rates of glyphosate with the best surfactants available, along with some group A products, can reduce the weed population. Residual herbicides like metolachlor, applied in late winter fallows, are very useful in moist soil conditions.

Herbicide is largely ineffective on FTR grass unless it is applied to small, actively growing seedlings.

Double knock glyphosate – Plan to follow any glyphosate application with a double knock to reduce the number of FTR grass survivors.

Grow competitive crops – FTR grass is sensitive to crop competition. All efforts to increase crop competition through crop and variety choice, narrower rows and stubble management will suppress FTR grass germination. Early weed control in sorghum can effectively suppress weed seed production of FTR grass plants that germinate later in the crop. A competitive cover crop could also be a valuable option.

FTR grass is susceptible to crop competition. Front – FTR from fallow, Middle – FTR from 1m row sorghum and Back – FTR from 0.5m row sorghum.

Stop weed seed set – This is the single-most effective tool to prevent an FTR grass incursion. FTR grass is a prolific seed producer and can quickly get out of hand. Initial invasions often occur as a weedy patch forms around a few ‘mother’ plants. Removing large FTR grass plants before they seed, using patch cultivation, chipping, hand pulling or fire, is the best option. Seed is easily spread in overland flow and on vehicles, machinery (particularly headers), people and animals. Extreme care is required when managing weedy patches to avoid spreading the problem.

Burning individual plants is one option to stop seed set on FTR grass.

Harvest weed seed control – FTR grass could be a good candidate for weed seed collection and destruction at harvest. One study has shown that as much as 93 per cent of the weed seed was retained (held) on the plant at the time of mungbean harvest (Chauhan et al., unpublished data). Increased crop competition tends to encourage taller FTR grass plants, making it easier to capture the seedheads at harvest.

“We also found that FTR grass seed on the soil surface is not viable after 12 months. Burying the seed lengthens the period that the seed remains viable, so unless the seedbank is completely buried to a depth of 5 cm or more and left undisturbed for more than 18 months, cultivation on its own might not be a good control tactic,” says Dr Chauhan. “If FTR grass seed is left on the surface, and no more seed is allowed to set, the seed bank will deplete in 12 months. In dry years the seed is likely to persist longer and some seed can be buried at planting or simply falling down cracks in the soil.”

Feathertop Rhodes grass is already widespread across Australia and it is easily transported to new areas during floods, on machinery and in hay. Roadsides, water channels, head ditches, and on-farm tracks are all sources of weed seed, which can then easily enter cropping areas. If hay is brought in, it is wise to feed out in defined areas so any FTR grass plants can be more readily seen and removed before they set seed. It is also important for agronomists, researchers and contractors to strictly follow biosecurity practices and ‘Come Clean, Go Clean’.

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What to expect at WeedSmart Week 2021

Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Double knock to protect glyphosate
The WeedSmart Forum is set for Tuesday 17 August, 2021 at the Civic Centre in Esperance WA. The program features growers, agronomists and researchers discussing ways to use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
Greg Warren from Farm and General in Esperance will be sharing his thoughts on the control of weeds like summer-germinating ryegrass, marshmallow, fleabane and portulaca.
He says the growers around Esperance are tackling glyphosate resistance in annual ryegrass, along with brome and barley grass and other emerging weeds using a range of integrated control tactics. The double knock plays a key role in preserving glyphosate (and soil moisture) and providing a clean seed bed for planting crops.

 
Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Increase crop competition
WeedSmart Week 2021 is set for Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 August, 2021 in and around Esperance WA. The last two days feature local growers hosting visits to their farms and discussing how they use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
One of the farms hosting a visit during WeedSmart Week is Warrakirri’s 12,800 cropping operation at Condingup. Farm manager Con Murphy has implemented a variety of tactics to combat their main weeds – annual ryegrass and wild radish. Since 2015 the farm has undergone an intensive soil amelioration program to improve the drainage and ameliorate the sandy soils across the farm.
Con says the benefits have been seen in better germination and establishment that sets their cereal, pulse and canola crops up to compete strongly with weeds. There is also a benefit at the end of the season where rain in August or September enters the soil profile without causing waterlogging, and providing a better finish for their crops.
Since 2016-17 about 80% of the farm has been ripped and a portion has been ripped 2 or 3 times because the sandy soils tend to slump after substantial rainfall events, recreating the hardpan.
Con will be showing the WeedSmart tour group how their ripping, drainage, liming and spading program has helped grow more crop and less weeds!
Listen to the podcast with Warrakirri’s Con Murphy talking about the impact of improved drainage on crop competition

Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Implement harvest weed seed control
The WeedSmart Week machinery display is set for Wednesday 18 August, 2021 at Dave Campbell’s shed near Esperance WA. The 3-day WeedSmart Week program features growers, agronomists and researchers discussing ways to use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
We’ve saved the harvest weed seed control discussion for the machinery session on Wednesday 18 August. Ben White from Kondinin Group will host the machinery session with spray and harvesting gear on display including impact mills from Seed Terminator, Redekop and iHSD (both hydraulic and belt-driven), Emar chaff deck, and spray technologies including Goldacres’ G6 Crop Cruiser series 2, and weed detection technologies using drones and weed identifying cameras (green on green).
Ben White, Kondinin Group (Photo: Melissa Powell, courtesy of GRDC)
Growers doing the WeedSmart Big 6
WeedSmart Week 2021 is set for Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 August, 2021 in and around Esperance WA. The last two days feature local growers hosting visits to their farms and discussing how they use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
One of the growers who will open up their farm for a visit is Adrian Perks who farms at Condingup, 70 km north-east of Esperance. Adrian runs a continuous cropping program on his 4300 ha property, growing canola, wheat, barley, faba beans and lupins. This diverse rotation allows him to mix and rotate both chemical and non-chemical weed control tactics. Over half of Adrian’s farm is sandplain, on which he has implemented a soil amelioration program to address non-wetting to increase the competitiveness of his crops. He currently uses chaff decks for harvest weed seed control and is introducing an impact mill this season. Adrian monitors the tramtracks for weed growth and if he feels the weed pressure is too high, he uses a shielded sprayer to reduce seed set. The bus tour will include four farm visits and a machinery display.
Listen to Adrian on the Regional Update podcast.
Adrian Perkins, Condingup WA
 

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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.

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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.
 

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