Read time: 3 minutes

Silverleaf nightshade can be beaten

The focus of a weed control program is to run down the seed bank—doing everything possible to prevent seed set. But, what about weeds that spread vegetatively?

Treating silverleaf nightshade before it flowers and again when it reshoots has proven to be an effective strategy to control this difficult crop and pasture weed. Photo: Rex Stanton

Treating silverleaf nightshade before it flowers and again when it reshoots has proven to be an effective strategy to control this difficult crop and pasture weed. Photo: Rex Stanton

What could possibly control a perennial weed with a huge network of roots that is able to produce multiple stems metres apart, propagate new plants from tiny root fragments and produce seeds that remain viable in the harshest soil conditions and in the gut of grazing animals?

These are the questions that researchers are keen to find solutions to as silverleaf nightshade infiltrates crops and pastures across southern Australia. Silverleaf nightshade infestations typically reduce crop yield by 20–40 % and render pasture unusable if it is not contained. A collaborative project between NSW Primary Industries and Murrumbidgee Landcare, with funding from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is targeting silverleaf nightshade control across four states.

Project officer Phil Bowden, Murrumbidgee Landcare at Cootamundra, NSW said that silverleaf nightshade (SLN) is of increasing concern in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, yet many landholders are unaware of the effect of the weed or how easily it is spread.

“Silverleaf nightshade has an extensive root system, linking plants across the paddock and up to several metres in depth, making control very difficult,” he said. “It competes with pasture and crops for soil moisture and nutrients, and does not respond to the usual chemical control measures.”

The good news is that field trial results confirm that a ‘dual action’ spray program, implemented over successive years can reduce the impact of this difficult weed.

“The dual action program involves spraying silverleaf nightshade at the early flowering stage, both in spring or autumn, to prevent seed set. A follow-up spray in autumn controls re-shoots and helps run down the root reserves,” said Mr Bowden.

Several herbicides, such as picloram, glyphosate and 2,4-D amine products, are registered for the control of silverleaf nightshade. Consult with your local agronomist for advice on product choice, application rates and adjuvants, keeping in mind that application timing is more important than product choice.

Crop and pasture competition can suppress silverleaf nightshade over winter and delay emergence in spring, however silverleaf nightshade stems will emerge during summer if there is no competition for summer rainfall.

Competition in spring reduces the number of new shoots that emerge and helps synchronise flowering, making herbicide application at flowering more efficient.

Although SLN does produce a large quantity of seed, the predominant source of new stems is its rootbank. Cultivation is more likely to spread the weed than control it because fragments just 1 cm in length are capable of forming a new plant.

Silverleaf nightshade is easily spread on machinery and can establish new plants from very small root fragments. Photo: Rex Stanton

Silverleaf nightshade is easily spread on machinery and can establish new plants from very small root fragments. Photo: Rex Stanton

Trials have shown that managing smaller (<0.25 ha) or less dense infestations (less than 1 stem/m2 and less than 1 ha) will lead to a decline in the rootbank and the seedbank to the point where eradication is realistic. However, to eradicate it requires intensive monitoring and control for up to 5 years to ensure no re-infestation occurs.

Optical weed detection technology such as the Weedseeker® is worth considering when applying expensive herbicides in low density situations.

A series of workshops are planned for many of the SLN ‘hot spots’ around Australia in early spring.

For more information on SLN workshops and control strategies, contact Phil Bowden on 0427 201 946 and visit the website.

Related Articles

View all

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.  

Spray well – correct nozzles, adjuvants and water rates

Spray application is a technical field and growers need to make sure their equipment and application techniques are spot-on. The GRDC Spray Application GrowNote provides detailed information and about 80 videos to demonstrate key skills. Prevent spray-drift The focus of spraying herbicide needs to be on doing the job right so the weeds receive the correct dose and die, and this includes reducing the air borne fraction to a bare minimum. Bill Gordon’s 10 Tips for Reducing Spray Drift Choose all products in the tank mix carefully. Understand the product mode of action and coverage requirements. Select (and check) the coarsest spray quality that will provide effective control. Expect that surface temperature inversions will form as sunset approaches and will likely persist overnight and even beyond sunrise on many occasions. DO NOT SPRAY. Use weather forecasts to inform your spray decisions. Only start spraying when the sun is about 20 degrees above the horizon and when the wind speed has been above 4–5 km/hr for more than 20–30 minutes, and clearly blowing away from any adjacent sensitive crops or areas. Set the boom height to achieve a double overlap of the spray patterns. Avoid higher spraying speeds. Leave buffers unsprayed if necessary and come back. Continue to monitor conditions, particularly wind speed, at the site during the spray operation High water rates don’t have to slow you down Some growers are concerned that increasing the water rate when applying herbicide will slow down their spray operation and cost them money. However, the biggest financial loss during spraying usually comes from a failed spray job. To keep your spray operation as time efficient as possible when using more effective and reliable application volumes, you can: Use nurse tanks around the farm to reduce the time spent travelling back to a central re-fill point. Use a larger pump, e.g. 2.5 inch, to make re-filling quicker. Pre-mix the batch while the sprayer is operating. Many mixes can be held in the mixing tank for up to 6 hours. However, wettable granules and suspension concentrates will need agitation to keep them in solution. For pre-emergent herbicides in high stubble situations, carrier volume has a large effect on the level of control achieved. Across four trial sites Dr Borger’s research demonstrated that ryegrass control with trifluralin or Sakura® increased from 53% control when the carrier volume was 30 L/ha to 78% control when the carrier volume was increased to 150 L water/ha in high Water quality and mixing order Water quality is often overlooked as a possible contributor to herbicide failure and can lead to confusion over the herbicide resistance status of weeds on a property. Water should be considered as one of the chemicals in any mix, given that water quality varies markedly depending on its source. Getting the mixing order right is essential for effective spray results. Don’t start mixing until the water quality is right Podcast – Mixing herbicides Adjuvants Sometimes adding an adjuvant is beneficial and sometimes it is detrimental; and there is an art to knowing how to best deploy these additives. When weeds are susceptible to the applied herbicides, the effectiveness of adjuvants generally goes un-noticed. Correctly applied adjuvants can reduce the impact of low level herbicide resistance by helping to maximise the amount of herbicide taken up by the plant.

Clean borders – avoid evolving resistance on the fence line

About one-quarter of glyphosate-resistant populations within broadacre cropping situations across Australia come from fencelines and other non-cropping areas of the farm. Along paddock borders, where there is no crop competition, weeds can flourish and, if not controlled, set lots of seed. The traditional approach has been to treat these weeds with glyphosate to keep borders clean but after 20-odd years this option is now failing and paddock borders are becoming a significant source of glyphosate-resistant weed seed. Weed researcher Eric Koetz said the limited options for managing weeds along irrigation infrastructure and other non-crop areas is a problem and is putting additional pressure on knock-down herbicides in irrigated systems. In some situations, cultivation can be used to kill the weeds and provide a firebreak, but on light soils this may pose an erosion risk and mowing or slashing may be safer options. Another possible tactic is to continue using herbicides but to ensure that a clean-up operation is carried out before any survivors can set seed. Some growers are choosing to increase the heat on weeds along the borders by planting the crop right to the fence and then baling the outside lap and spraying with a knockdown herbicide to kill any weeds and provide a firebreak. Another good option in some situations is to maintain a healthy border of vegetation using non-invasive grasses. In Queensland, buffel grass is a good example of a grass that can outcompete other weeds while not invading crop lands. If only herbicides are used on fencelines, resistance is inevitable. Surviving weeds on fencelines have no competition and access to plenty of soil moisture, so they set a lot of seed and resistance can easily flow into neighbouring paddocks. Other resources It’s time for a glyphosate intervention Farm hygiene cottons on – Cleave Rogan, St George What’s new in management of herbicide resistant weeds on fencelines? Keeping the farm clean – Graham Clapham, Norwin Don’t jeopardise glyphosate for clean fencelines Keeping fencelines clean Resistance risk to knock-down herbicides on irrigated cotton farms

Subscribe to the WeedSmart Newsletter