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Weed control is a package deal in SA Mid North

Agronomist Craig Davis has been assisting growers in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula of South Australia to navigate their way around resistance to key herbicides such as trifluralin, Group A and Group B herbicides for 10 years or more.

“Some of this chemistry was cheap and dealing with the loss of these modes of action has been difficult,” says Craig. “The key to farming without these herbicides has centred around using crop rotations to control the weed seed bank.”

Mid North SA agronomist Craig Davis says harvest weed seed control has been widely accepted as a necessary tool to manage the seed bank in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula. Narrow windrow burning (NWB) is commonly practiced in the region, and there has been considerable interest in chaff management systems with a few chaff decks operating and some growers now trialling chaff lining.

Annual ryegrass control has been and remains a significant cost to growers in these regions. Brome grass and wild oats are becoming increasingly important weeds that were previously suppressed by trifluralin, and stubble retention on many farms has also favoured some weeds, like brome grass.

Craig says these weeds are demonstrating increasing resistance to Group A (fop and dim) and Group B (SU and imi) herbicides, and some of the alternative pre-emergence herbicides are relatively ineffective, or variable in their control.

For some growers, oaten hay production for export has been a useful enterprise to reign in resistant annual ryegrass numbers. Although a very effective weed control option, it is not for everyone.

Brome grass and wild oats are not as well controlled through oaten hay production because a significant amount of seed is shed before the crop is cut.

For many hard-to-kill weeds, a breakthrough came with the introduction of new imi-tolerant lentil varieties in the early 2000s, which are now built into the rotation on most farms in the region. “Imi-tolerant lentils have been very useful in managing weeds, and the high grain prices and suitability to the rotation have made them the legume of choice for growers,” says Craig. “In practice though, field peas are the most effective legume option for grass weed control.”

Field peas can be sown later without suffering a yield penalty, are a more competitive crop and are a good option for effective crop-topping due to their early maturity. The downside of field peas is the likely build up of snail numbers.

Although lentils have been the pulse of choice for several years, field peas are the most effective legume option for grass weed control in the region because they can be sown later without suffering a yield penalty, are a more competitive than lentils and are a good option for effective crop-topping due to their early maturity.

Break crops currently make up around 50 per cent of the cropped area, due mainly to the recent high price for lentils. Craig expects this area of break crop to drop in response to the lower lentil price, however, growers generally recognise the benefits of maintaining diversity in their cropping program.

“Canola is more competitive than lentils and enables the use of triazine as an alternative chemistry for annual ryegrass control,” he says. “Hybrid canola is particularly competitive against weeds and can suppress seed set even when the herbicide package is not strong.”

A large portion of the canola crop is windrowed and there is a long history of spraying under the cutter bar to reduce seed set in lodged and late germinating ryegrass. Many growers have added narrow windrow burning (NWB) to their weed management program to kill any viable weed seed left at the end of the canola crop.

A cheaper option is to spray over the top to desiccate the crop, then direct harvest with a narrow windrow burning chute and burn the narrow windrows the following autumn, however Craig has witnessed significant wind damage to standing crops and recommends growers continue to swath and spray under the cutterbar, unless they can guarantee timely harvest. The higher harvest height of direct headed canola also means a significant amount of weed seeds are not captured in the header front.

Canola grown on cereal stubble has reached a yield plateau, and along with the increasing incidence of clethodim resistance, Craig expects growers to increase their use of double-breaks in their rotations. The traditional double break in the area was pasture followed by canola, which provides annual grass weed control, a cereal disease break and uses the residual soil nutrients.

“There is now an increase in the use of a double break of oaten hay or grain legume followed by canola,” he says. “This allows the canola to thrive in paddocks with lower weed burdens, lowers stubble residue levels and increases soil nutrient levels, particularly nitrogen.”

“Adding feed barley to the rotation offers growers the opportunity to implement a triple-break to control brome grass, wild oats and ryegrass, making use of the permit that allows spray-topping of feed barley to reduce weed seed set prior to harvest,” he says.

Craig works with his clients to optimise crop competition in tandem with a good pre-emergent herbicide package. He says that effective and relatively cheap pre-emergent herbicides have previously masked the true value of crop competition.

“Stubble retention makes the adoption of narrow rows more difficult but many growers have moved from 30 cm to 22 cm row spacing using tined planters,” says Craig. “More commonly, growers are using higher planting rates to achieve stronger crop competition. The other critical aspect is to seed all crops at the optimal time of sowing and to not plant everything early. Early sowing should only be considered for paddocks with low weed numbers.”

Mixing trifluralin with another pre-emergent herbicide is an effective tool provided both herbicides in the mix have some efficacy, say over 80 per cent efficacy as a stand-alone herbicide. With high levels of trifluralin resistance now widespread, the use of other effective MOAs in combination is increasing. With heavy stubble loads on the soil surface making it difficult to achieve high levels of control using pre-emergent herbicides, Craig says it is essential that growers diversify and implement other weed control tactics to remove any survivors and stop seed set.

Harvest weed seed control has been widely accepted as a necessary tool to manage the seed bank. Narrow windrow burning (NWB) is commonly practiced in the region, mostly in canola and lentil crops because the windrows tend to stay in place and support a hot fire that achieves a high level of weed seed kill.

“There has been considerable interest in chaff management systems in the district and several clients have used chaff carts in the past,” he says. “Now there are a few chaff decks operating and some growers are trialling chaff lining. There has been success with chaff lining pulses one year and placing the narrow windrows of the following canola crop on top of the pulse chaff line.”

“Growers using chaff decks are seeing improvements in summer spraying efficacy as a result of less dust coming off the tramlines,” says Craig. “The downsides are the increased difficulty in establishing crops in the tramlines and, although the weed seed mortality is high, there are still high numbers of weeds germinating on the wheeltracks.”

Getting started with chaff lining

Farming 4000 ha of light sandy to heavy clay soil in the medium rainfall district of Halbury and Salter Springs SA, Kevin Simon trialled chaff lining for the first time in the 2017 harvest.

Kevin planted early maturing PBA Wharton field peas to help bring annual ryegrass numbers back under control. The field peas yielded around 3–4 t/ha and, being early maturing, offered an opportunity to harvest early and catch the ryegrass before it lodged or set seed.

Farming in the medium rainfall district of Halbury and Salter Springs SA, Kevin Simon trialled chaff lining for the first time in the 2017 harvest. He planted early maturing PBA Wharton field peas to help bring annual ryegrass numbers back under control. Kevin plans to plant TT canola into this paddock in 2018 using a disc seeder to minimise disturbance of the chaff line.

“Harvesting low and early are important to stop ryegrass seed set but it also comes with difficulties because the ryegrass is still green and can bind up the rotors in the header,” he says.

Kevin plans to plant TT canola into this paddock in 2018 using a disc seeder to minimise disturbance of the chaff line. With limited in-crop herbicide options available, Kevin relies on late season cultural control.

“We spray over the top of the canola with a self-propelled sprayer then direct harvest to control ryegrass using the chaff lining chute,” he says. “Chaff lining is also a good way to collect volunteer crop seed from the previous season. The plan is to place the canola narrow windrows on top of the previous year’s pea chaff line, and burn the narrow windrows to control weed seeds collected during the harvest process.”

Last summer was very dry and so there was very limited germination of volunteers and weed seeds from the field pea chaff lines. In wetter years, Kevin expects that volunteers would be the most dominant plant type within the chaff line, with ryegrass being the next most prevalent species present. If necessary, Kevin is prepared to apply a range of chemical and cultural control measures to target the weeds growing in the chaff lines. Lime applied on other paddocks has also helped reduce the ryegrass population.

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WeedSmart agronomist set to tackle high rainfall zone weeds

Every locality has its own spectrum of weeds, and growers face different opportunities and challenges regarding the control tactics they can employ. The WeedSmart Big 6 approach is a practical way to ensure that an integrated weed management program is put in place that disrupts weed seed production and the evolution of herbicide resistance. Commencing in January 2021, Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria. Jana will add to the dedicated and experienced extension agronomists on the WeedSmart team with Peter Newman in the Western region, Chris Davey in the South, Greg and Kirrily Condon in the East and Paul McIntosh in the North. Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria. Jana hails from the Mid North of SA, and began working at Pinion Advisory (previously Rural Directions) while she was studying agriculture at the University of Adelaide. She has been employed full-time at Pinion Advisory since January 2019 as an agribusiness consultant, based in Clare, and spends most of her time delivering agronomy and farm business advice to clients from a wide range of cropping regions in South Australia. Pinion Advisory is a foundation WeedSmart sponsor and Jana has been involved in two WeedSmart Week events already – the first as a participant and grower group organiser at the Horsham event in 2019 and then as the local organiser for WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare. In welcoming her to the WeedSmart team, program manager Lisa Mayer says Jana brings energy, commitment and insight to deliver communications focussed on the southern region’s high rainfall regions. “Growers in the southern high rainfall zones are facing some serious issues with herbicide resistance influencing their farming decisions,” says Ms Mayer. “Jana will be engaging with agronomists, growers and researchers in each of the distinct high rainfall zones to understand the complexities and look for practical ways to apply the WeedSmart Big 6 in various cropping scenarios.” “We plan to deliver WeedSmart Week in Esperance, part of Western Australia’s high rainfall cropping zone, in August 2021 and Jana will play a key role in the planning and delivering of our annual 3-day flagship event.” Jana says her experience with the WeedSmart program has been very positive and she has been particularly impressed with the support the program has from all sectors of the grains industry. Newly appointed WeedSmart extension agronomist, Jana Dixon (green cap) leading discussions with farm visit host, Ben Marshman, Owen SA, and growers and agronomists attending WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare. “I have spoken to many growers and agronomists who have found real value in the information that the WeedSmart program delivers,” she says. “For many it is as much about considering another operator’s philosophy on dealing with weeds, and taking a fresh look at their own systems, rather than just learning about a new tactic or the traits of a new herbicide in isolation from the big picture.” She says the high calibre of industry people who contribute their time and expertise to the program is testament to the value WeedSmart has to agribusiness, growers, agronomists and researchers alike. 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You an follow Jana on Twitter and keep up to date with the HRZ here.

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.

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