As a whole, the northern grains region has had a very tough start to the 2018 winter cropping season. With a few showers around there are hopes of some reprieve from a long, dry spell.
Unfortunately, weeds will most likely be the first to respond to rainfall and growers will need to make some difficult decisions surrounding their cropping program, pre-emergent herbicide applications and maximising the competitiveness of any crops that get established.
Brad Jackson, Gurley, will speak at the WeedSmart Week 2018 forum and host a bus tour of his family’s property, outlining his experience with pre-emergent herbicides, optical weed detection, narrow windrow burning and using a diverse cropping program to stay ahead of herbicide resistance.
By August the dice will have rolled on the season and growers and agronomists are invited to attend the 2018 WeedSmart Week event in the Narrabri and Moree districts. The 3-day program consists of a 1-day forum at Lochabar Station near Narrabri on 20 August. The following two days will be filled with bus tours to farms around Narrabri and Moree where growers have but in place integrated weed management programs to minimise the impact of herbicide resistance on their businesses.
The theme for the event is ‘Diversify and Conquer – manage weeds using the BIG 6’. At the forum and on the bus trips growers, agronomists and researchers will have all the options and ideas on the table for discussion.
Three growers from the region who attended the 2017 WeedSmart Week in Wagga Wagga will be making presentations over the three days, outlining ways they have tackled herbicide resistance head on.
Farming north-west of Moree, Jason Rogers drops a GPS marker on any suspect weed patches he finds so he can treat them with spot spraying, chipping or strategic tillage. In recent years he has moved into applying residual herbicides soon after harvest and is also mixing and rotating fallow sprays to extend the efficacy of all available modes of action. He says barley and Clearfield canola provide early canopy closure and the strongest crop competition for winter weeds.
Byron Birch is implementing a 5-year rotation of cereals, pulses and dryland cotton on a 4500 ha lease block on ‘Morven’, north-west of Narrabri. He is contending with annual ryegrass that was delivered in the 2016 flood and appears to have some tolerance to both Group A and B chemistry, and there are some small patches of glyphosate-resistant barnyard grass emerging. Byron has used dryland cotton to provide strong competition for moisture over summer to suppress the expansion of weedy patches on the farm.
Brad Jackson farms with his father Peter and brothers Phil and Matt at Gurley where they usually have a robust winter cropping program featuring wheat, barley, chickpea, canola and linseed. Following 2017 WeedSmart Week they have reintroduced the use of pre-emergent herbicides to their herbicide program and are taking every opportunity to mix and rotate herbicide modes of action. The Jackson’s WeedIT optical sprayer has revolutionised their herbicide program, allowing them to spray low weed density paddocks more frequently and target small, fresh seedlings. Brad and Phil are also developing valuable weed management tactics, such as camera-guided inter-row cultivator and green manuring, that can be employed in an organic farming system at Westmar.
WeedSmart Week attendees will have several opportunities to see and discuss cutting-edge technologies such as optical sprayers, autonomous tractors and emerging ‘green-on-green’ spray sensors. Beefwood Farms’ manager, Glenn Coughran has used optical sprayers as the foundation of a rejuvenated weed control program over the last 12 years and seen the benefits of combining this technology with autonomous tractors over the last three years. Glenn is keen to see ‘green-on-green’ optical weed detection become a reality and is working closely with AgriFac to have this technology integrated into their spraying equipment.
In a region where mixed farming is far less common now than it was a few decades ago, Tom Lampe uses livestock to deal with weeds that are hard-to-kill with herbicide. Using three 250 ha paddocks, each with a 5 ha ‘cooler’, Tom sprays the paddocks soon after harvest and then allows the sheep to graze the wheat, barley, chickpea and sorghum stubble, providing additional feed for the stock through the year.
These are some of the growers ready to host bus tours, even though the weather may prevent them doing what they normally would to manage their cropping program. These experienced and thoughtful farmers have implemented weed management programs that ‘Diversify and Conquer – manage weeds using the BIG 6’ in all seasons.
The growers, agronomists and researchers that will speak and participate in expert panels at the Day 1 forum will spark important discussions about herbicide resistance and how the Big 6 tactics can be used to target the weed species and farming systems in the northern cropping region. There’s one thing for sure – doing nothing is not an option.