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Implementing the ‘mix and rotate’ strategy to combat herbicide resistance

with Tony Lockrey, consulting agronomist, AMPS Moree
Mixing and rotating herbicide modes of action is a key strategy in the WeedSmart Big 6 – but it’s a herbicide response to a herbicide problem. So, while it’s critical, it must be implemented within a diverse weed management program.

Tony Lockrey, senior agronomist with AMPS Agribusiness at Moree has seen herbicide resistance get out of control on some farms in northern NSW while other growers have responded early and managed to maintain a broader spectrum of effective herbicides in their program.

AMPS Moree consulting agronomist Tony Lockrey has seen good results when herbicides are rotated and mixed in each phase – the fallow, pre-sowing, in-crop and for desiccation.
“It has to start with herbicide resistance testing – specifically for susceptibility,” he says. “Knowing what does work is very important as you’ve probably already got a fair idea about what doesn’t.”

Once all the effective actives are ‘on the table’ it’s time to look at what crops can be grown to allow the use of the widest range of herbicide groups in the rotation, and where you might be able to find synergistic mixes that can further delay resistance and potentially allow the use of actives that are no longer effective on their own.

“When we sit down to plan out an integrated weed control program we want to make sure there is rotation and mixing going on in each phase – in the fallow, pre-sowing, in-crop and for desiccation, where required,” says Tony. “When this is done in conjunction with a determination to stop seed set and remove survivors then it is possible to keep weed numbers low.”

With an increasing number of proprietary herbicide mixes coming onto the market and the broad spectrum of synergistic and antagonistic interactions between potential mixing partners it pays to be well-informed and to seek advice.

If I already rotate modes of action why do I have to mix too?
Short answer: Rotation buys you time; mixing buys you shots. Mixing and rotating buys you time and shots.

Longer answer: Rotation of effective modes of action can significantly delay the onset of herbicide resistance and needs to be built into your crop rotation plan. Herbicides in Group A and Group B are particularly susceptible to multiple exposure resistance with as few as six exposures being enough to select for the resistant mutation.

By mixing MOA groups, either in the same tank mix or applied separately to the same population (like a double knock), those plants that survive one MOA are often killed by the second.

How does testing for susceptibility help when there’s a weed blow-out?
Short answer: Knowing what will work against a resistant population helps drive down the seed bank and helps you regain control.

Longer answer: One real-world example is a paddock near Moree where Group A resistant wild oats were discovered in 1998 following a history of repeated use of Topik® (Group A – fop), Verdict® (Group A – fop) and, later, Axial® (Group A – den). Testing of this population showed the wild oats was very susceptible to Group B sulfonylurea, so Atlantis was used to drive down the weed numbers. A new plan was then put in place with Groups B, A, C and M used across the winter cropping program, but there was still too much reliance on Group B. The current plan for the farm now includes pre-emergent herbicides from Groups K, J and D used individually and in mixes.

How do I integrate more mixes into my herbicide program?
Short answer: Look for opportunities for synergistic mixes throughout the fallow and cropping seasons. In many instances the most important mixing partner is more water.

Longer answer:

Many growers are looking for tank mixes to improve control of glyphosate-resistant seedlings. Knowing which mixtures are beneficial and which are antagonistic is important.

In the fallow, there are often opportunities to use the mix and rotate strategy to great effect in a double-knock application, such as:

Group M (glyphosate) + Group I (2,4-D or fluroxypyr or picloram) followed by Group L (paraquat)
Group M (glyphosate) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group G (Sharpen® or flumioxazin)
Group M (glyphosate) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group K (Dual® Gold)
Group A (Shogun®) followed by Group L (paraquat) + Group K (Dual® Gold)

The fleabane on the right was unresponsive to glyphosate on its own but mixing picloram with triclopyr or 2,4 D to the glyphosate application was effective (left).
Pre-plant examples include paraquat plus a triazine herbicide (Group C) or paraquat plus an imidazalinone (Group B), which are commonly used to provide broad spectrum knockdown and residual control. Dual® Gold (Group K) is another common fallow residual option which is very compatible with glyphosate, triazines and paraquat.

An example of an in-crop mix is the addition of clethodim to haloxyfop (both Group A) to improve control of fop-resistant grasses in broadleaf crops where both are registered.

At the end of the season there is also some opportunity to mix desiccants for some crops.

None of these mixes are provided as recommendations – seek advice for your own situation and always read and follow the label.

What about application set up for mixtures?
Short answer: Some herbicides require better coverage. In many instances the most important mixing partner is more water.

Longer answer: Suitable product and water rates, droplet size and the right adjuvant, are critical for optimising herbicide efficacy.

For example, while a fallow mix such as glyphosate plus a Group A, or a Group G (depending on the target weed), is physically compatible, the components have different requirements for optimal performance. Seek advice about the best water rate to use, the potential impact of an oil-based adjuvant (required for most Group A and Group G herbicides) on glyphosate efficacy for some summer grass weeds, and other possible risks.

Factsheet – Mixing knockdown partners with Group G

How do I avoid generating multiple and cross-resistance?
Short answer: Implement as many different weed control strategies as possible. The WeedSmart Big 6 is a practical foundation for an integrated program of herbicide and non-herbicide tactics.

Longer answer: Rotating and mixing herbicide groups can give you room to move in holding off resistance or getting more out of some marginally effective products.

The only way to stave off herbicide resistance completely is to have low weed numbers and to be vigilant about preventing survivors from setting seed. Have a diverse cropping program, use herbicides to provide early weed control, set your crops up to compete strongly and monitor and remove survivor weeds.

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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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