Read time: 5 minutes

Winter pulses can compete, even without herbicide

Chickpeas and faba beans now have a permanent place in most northern region farming rotations and, while they offer some diversity in herbicide options, they have been considered comparatively less competitive against weeds than other crops.

Back when growers had a number of effective herbicide options available, the lower competitiveness of these pulse crops was less problematic because the herbicides were keeping weed numbers low. In the light of increasing herbicide resistance in many weeds, strong crop competition is required to do more of the ‘heavy lifting’ within an integrated weed management program.

Dr Michael Widderick, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries principal research scientist, is leading the work on crop competition within the multi-facetted GRDC-funded ‘Innovative crop weed solutions for northern region cropping systems’ (US00084) project led by Dr Michael Walsh, University of Sydney. The first round of southern Queensland data was collected for faba bean (PBA Warda) and chickpea (PBA HatTrick) trials harvested in late October 2017, at the Hermitage site near Warwick.

Sowthistle is a major winter weed in pulse crops and growers are finding it is increasingly able to escape herbicide control, robbing the crop of valuable resources while setting huge numbers of seeds that increase weed pressure in the following season.

There are known populations of sowthistle with resistance to glyphosate and chlorsulfuron in the northern grains region (and 2,4-D resistance confirmed in SA), making non-herbicide control tactics all the more important in driving down numbers of this moisture-sucking weed.

Sowthistle is a major winter weed in pulse crops and growers are finding it is increasingly able to escape herbicide control, robbing the crop of valuable resources while setting huge numbers of seeds that increase weed pressure in the following season.

“We are looking at optimal row spacing and crop density to combat common sowthistle, and also determining if more competitive crops are also higher yielding,” says Dr Widderick. “The trials are being replicated at sites near Warwick, Narrabri and Wagga Wagga and will run for five years.”

The faba bean and chickpea crops were trialled at narrow and wider row spacing, and low, medium and high crop densities in both weedy (sown sowthistle) and weed-free plots. The sowthistle seed sown in the trials all came from the same, non-resistant population and no herbicide was applied to any of the plots.

Dr Widderick says sowthistle is definitely susceptible to crop competition, with even the least competitive faba bean and chickpea crops cutting weed biomass and seed production by at least 50 per cent compared to plots where the weed was allowed to grow free of any crop competition.

Sowthistle seed production was greatest for both crops at wide row spacing (50 cm) and low (20 plants/m2) crop density. Seed production was progressively reduced as crop competition increased.

“In chickpea we found that reducing row spacing from 50 cm to 25 cm further reduced weed biomass and seed production by about 50 per cent at a crop density of 40 plants/m2,” he says. “In this trial, row spacing had no effect on crop yield but increasing plant density did generate a significant and progressive increase in yield for both chickpea and faba bean in weedy plots.”

When sowthistle is present, increasing crop density from 20 plants/m2to 70 plants/m2in faba beans, or to 80 plants/m2in chickpea, generated around 0.5 t/ha yield increase. Averaged across all treatments for both crops, controlling sowthistle with crop competition alone (no herbicide applied) was worth approximately 0.25 t/ha in crop yield.

This research has measured the effect of increasing the competitiveness of chickpeas and faba bean without the use of any herbicide. On farms, growers usually have some herbicides at their disposal and other research shows that combining effective herbicides with strong crop competition is the best way to control herbicide resistant weeds.

In chickpea, reducing row spacing from 50 cm to 25 cm cuts sowthistle biomass and seed production by about 50 per cent at a crop density of 40 plants/m2.

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