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Growers response to increasing herbicide resistance?

with Rick Llewellyn, Farming Systems Researcher, CSIRO

A comprehensive study involving 602 Australian farmers has shone the light on the way grain producers are implementing practices to tackle the rising problem of herbicide resistance. Herbicide resistance is estimated to cost Australian farmers over $187 million per year in additional herbicide costs alone.

Dr Rick Llewellyn, CSIRO is a farming systems researcher interested in reducing the economic impact of weeds on Australian farms. He and a team of researchers and analysts conducted a two-part study that has shown how Australian farmers are responding to the increasing risk of herbicide resistance and implementing a larger number of weed management tactics to minimise weed seed set.

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“Not surprisingly 83 per cent of growers identified annual ryegrass as their number 1 herbicide resistant weed,” says Dr Llewellyn. “Resistance and the extent of ryegrass nationally means that it is still the most costly weed for farmers to control, followed by wild radish, brome grass, wild oats and fleabane. However, the species and rankings vary across the 13 major agro-ecological zones in the GRDC Western, Southern and Northern grain growing regions.”

CSIRO farming systems researcher Dr Rick Llewellyn, says Australian farmers have responded to the presence and ongoing risk of herbicide resistance by using an increasingly wide range of practices.

CSIRO farming systems researcher Dr Rick Llewellyn, says Australian farmers have responded to the presence and ongoing risk of herbicide resistance by using an increasingly wide range of practices.

This GRDC-supported research showed that weed control costs, rather than yield losses, account for about three-quarters of the total economic impact of weeds on Australian grain growing businesses. In-season herbicide costs, including application costs, are estimated to be $1590 million and chemical fallow costs are about $507 million nationally. A growing number of farmers are implementing non-herbicide weed control measures to reduce costs and keep weed numbers down.

What practices have replaced cultivation in no-till systems?

Short answer: Crop-topping, double knockdown and narrow windrow burning.

Longer answer: 42 per cent of growers (mainly in the GRDC southern and western regions) use crop-topping for weed control at a total cost of $29 million, which includes herbicide application costs and crop yield damage. Glyphosate resistance risk is driving the uptake of the double knockdown tactic which 61 per cent of growers implement at a cost of $97 million. While harvest weed seed control uptake remains lower there is an upward trend, particularly with narrow windrow burning becoming common in several regions. Currently 30 per cent of growers nationally use narrow windrow burning to destroy harvest weed seed but the survey indicated this is likely to increase to 46 per cent adoption in the next five years, despite low usage in the Northern GRDC cropping region. The surveyed growers expressed considerable interest in the in-board Harrington Seed Destructor (iHSD), that has since become a commercial reality, and also chaff-lining as potential harvest weed seed control tools. 26 per cent of growers continue to burn whole-paddock stubble primarily for weed management reasons.

Narrow windrow burning is currently the harvest weed management practice of choice on about 30% of farms nationally and adoption is expected to rise to about 46% in the next five years.

Narrow windrow burning is currently the harvest weed management practice of choice on about 30% of farms nationally and adoption is expected to rise to about 46% in the next five years.

How are herbicides used in current no-till farming systems?

Short answer: Herbicides are still the major form of weed control.

Longer answer: 91 per cent of the cropped area is treated with a knock-down herbicide prior to seeding; a pre-emergent herbicide is applied to 74 per cent of the area at seeding and post-emergent selective herbicide is applied to 80 per cent of the cropped area. 64 per cent of growers indicated that they manage a herbicide resistance weed population and 17 per cent reported the presence of glyphosate resistant weeds on their farms. Surveyed growers were generally optimistic about the likelihood of new herbicide products being released in the next decade to assist with weeds that are resistant to current herbicides.

What are farmers doing to manage herbicide resistance?

Short answer: 94 per cent of growers indicated that they implement at least one IWM practice to manage herbicide resistance.

Longer answer: To manage herbicide resistance, there is increasing emphasis on practices that kill weed seeds. In addition, 36 per cent of growers use chemical rotation, 26 per cent use crop rotation and 19 per cent use livestock. Other practices include: double knockdown, pre-emergent herbicides, modifying current herbicide practices (higher rates and better applications methods), crop-topping or hay freezing, cultivation, burning, green and brown manure, hay and altering sowing times or density.

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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.
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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

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