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Investment in holistic weed management pays off

Made possible through significant investment from grain and cotton industry partners, WeedSmart has found a ‘real sweet spot to take a holistic approach to problems and develop viable solutions without bias’.

WeedSmart is a globally-unique extension model that brings together growers and the Australian public through investment from 25 industry partners and research organisations, all with ‘skin in the game’. For ten years, WeedSmart has consistently promoted practical science-backed tactics that growers can implement to grow more crops and fewer weeds.

A group of almost 200 growers, agronomists and commercial representatives with a keen interest in practical solutions to weed challenges in Australian grain crops recently evaluated the impact of the WeedSmart program.

Dr John James, evaluation specialist with Enablers of Change said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of responses from the WeedSmart community to the 2023 online and phone survey.

“We heard from 77 growers, 50 agronomists, 29 commercial representatives and 37 others, including 13 academics, who had used WeedSmart resources to implement on-farm weed control practices and promote long-term sustainable herbicide use,” he says. “This high level of support was a good indicator of how highly stakeholders value the WeedSmart program.”

“Over 80 per cent of respondents mentioned the practical value of WeedSmart information when developing crop management strategies and 70 per cent gathered updated information about weed control machinery via WeedSmart communications.”

Practice change is the ultimate aim of the WeedSmart program. Respondents to the survey created a list of 81 changes made to their work practices as a result of their engagement with the program, demonstrating that WeedSmart is a catalyst for real on-farm practice change.

Dr James says the farmers surveyed commented that WeedSmart has helped them be more aware of potential risks with farm management, crop rotations and chemical use, and keeping weed management front of mind when making all decisions.

Specific mention was made of using more methods of weed control besides chemicals to build a sustainable farming system. Specific practices mentioned included chaff lining, harvest weed seed control, using a disc machine with narrow row spacing, crop rotations, chemical selection and rotation, resistance testing, and purchasing weed seed impact mills. They also mentioned high seeding rate, crop competition, rotating chemical groups, narrow windrow burning and chaff decks.

The agronomists indicated that they had improved their understanding and management of herbicide resistance, and that WeedSmart had helped them focus on what was important, and to not feel overwhelmed by weed issues.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!

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