Weaponise sorghum crops to take out FTR and ABG
The common practice of planting sorghum on wide rows has made this crop notorious as a weak link crop that can allow key summer grass species to set bucket loads of seed. The take home message from four years of research at Narrabri, NSW and Hermitage, Qld, is that halving sorghum row spacing can halve weed seed production in both feathertop Rhodes grass and awnless barnyard grass. With investment from the GRDC, researchers from the University of Sydney and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) have conducted a range of field trials to identify ways to increase the competitiveness of sorghum and summer pulses. Dr Michael Widderick, DAF principal research scientist says the findings from these field trials have shown that a change to narrower row spacing for sorghum greatly suppressed weed growth and seed production, without reducing crop yield. “This is very significant for sorghum growers who have struggled with controlling these grass weeds in wide-row configurations,” he said. “These weeds are difficult to control with herbicides and there are few chemical options available to growers to control grasses in a grass crop. Any non-chemical strategies that reduce seedbank replenishment are very valuable to growers.” Dr Widderick said sorghum is often grown on one metre row spacing with an expectation that the crop will have access to more soil moisture. A considerable downside to planting on the wider row configuration is that canopy closure does not occur, allowing weeds to proliferate in the inter-row. With soil moisture at a premium, there is nothing spare to waste on growing summer weeds. For a sorghum crop to be competitive against weeds it requires adequate stored soil moisture (or access to irrigation) to establish the crop and achieve canopy closure as quickly as possible. This is most reliably done at a row spacing of 50 cm and this trial demonstrated that row spacing did not significantly impact crop yield within a season. Left: weeds growing uninhibited in the inter-row space of sorghum sown at 1 m row spacing. Right: Fewer weeds can establish when the canopy closes in sorghum sown at 50 cm row spacing. Two of the most difficult to control summer weeds, feathertop Rhodes grass (FTR) and awnless barnyard grass (ABG) can produce 40,000 and 42,000, seeds per plant respectively. Other studies have found these numbers could be even higher, so every effort to reduce seed production is worthwhile. Both these species have populations confirmed as resistant to glyphosate, and recently a population of FTR was confirmed to be resistant to haloxyfop (Group A). Including a poorly competitive sorghum crop in the crop rotation provides a weak link in any strategy to reduce the weed seedbank for these weeds, and potentially allows a blow-out in herbicide resistant biotypes, making future control in other crops or summer fallows very difficult. Dr Widderick said sorghum competitiveness across all seasons and both sites was increased with narrow row spacing (50 cm) and a plant density of 10 to 15 plants/m2. In the 2017/18 season at Hermitage, the researchers demonstrated that planting sorghum at a density of 10 to 15 plants/m2 reduced seed production of both weed species reduced by over 50 per cent compared to the seed production at the low crop density of 5 plants/m2. In the same season, cultivar choice, sorghum density (5, 10, 15 plants/m2) and row spacing (50, 75 and 100 cm) had no statistically significant effect on crop yield. Armed with this information, the 2018/19 sorghum trial at Hermitage was sown at a crop density of 10 plants/m2, and the effect of row spacing (50 cm and 100 cm) on weed production was measured. Biomass and seed production of ABG was reduced by 55 per cent and 65 per cent, respectively when the sorghum was sown at the narrower spacing. Similarly for FTR, the 50 cm row spacing reduced biomass and seed production by 48 per cent and 56 per cent, respectively. Graphs: Awnless barnyard grass (ABG) (left) and feathertop Rhodes grass (right) biomass and seed production as affected by sorghum row spacing at Hermitage, Qld 2018/19. Within each graph, different letters indicate significant (P<0.05) difference after pairwise comparison. Crop competition is a ‘free kick’ non-herbicide tactic in the WeedSmart Big 6 strategy to manage herbicide resistance in weeds. There is now solid evidence that growers can maintain crop yield and reduce summer grass seed production by planting sorghum crops at a density of 10 plants/m2 and a row spacing of 50 cm. There are some residual herbicide options for the control of these summer grass weeds in sorghum. However, their efficacy can differ greatly depending on the season and will rarely provide full control of FTR and BYG. A combination of residual herbicides and a competitive crop is likely to have an additive effect and reduce seed production on surviving weeds. This research project also demonstrated that mungbeans are more competitive on 50 cm row spacing, making any changes to seeding equipment worthwhile as it would suit the whole summer crop program in the northern region. Central Queensland sorghum grower experience Organic grain producers Paul and Cherry Murphy have always relied on crop competition as an integral component of their weed management program in all crops, including sorghum, at ‘Kevricia’, near Capella in Central Queensland. With many years of experience growing sorghum on 50 cm row spacing Paul says the suppressive ability of the closed canopy certainly reduces weed growth and seed set in-crop. “We have been working off a plant density of around six plants per metre square as a rule of thumb that seems to work in most seasons on our farm,” he says. “In seasons where soil moisture might be limiting we have seen higher density crops fall over, and so have leant towards the lower planting rate. But the 10 plants per metre square would certainly increase the competitiveness of the crop in seasons where there is sufficient moisture.” Paul is pleased to see researchers doing more work on row spacing and plant density, which is difficult to really tease out in commercial settings where there are too many potential variables. “In sorghum there is a complexity associated with plant density, tillering and row spacing that needs scientific trials like this to really determine the optimal combination for maximum yield and weed control in a variety of seasonal scenarios,” he says. This season Paul will be breaking with tradition and planting sorghum on wider row spacing as he now has a Garford camera-guided inter-row cultivator. He hopes the wider spacing will only be required for this season while he makes the adjustments required to have the machine suit their controlled traffic configuration. The Murphy’s inter-row cultivator is capable of working in crops planted on 50 cm row spacing once it has been adjusted to suit their CTF configuration. “Once we are ready to plant the winter crop I hope to be able to plant on 50 cm spacing again and still use the inter-row cultivator,” he says. “The cameras on the cultivator guide the alignment of the tynes to follow the plant row with a 1 cm accuracy, and can be used when the crop is 10 to 40 cm high.” As organic growers the Murphys don’t use any herbicides and so early weed control can be difficult, but this inter-row cultivator will help remove any weeds that emerge with the crop and then crop competition can suppress any later germinations. Other resources GRDC Update paper: Growing competitive sorghum and mungbean crops to suppress summer weeds Creating stiff competition against summer weeds Managing barnyard grass in summer crops and fallow
Run down the summer grass seedbank in mungbeans
With investment from GRDC, researchers led by Professor Bhagirath Chauhan at the University of Queensland, have shown that both windmill grass and feathertop Rhodes grass can greatly reduce yield in mungbean, yet both weed species retain a large portion of their seed when the mungbean crop is ready for harvest. This gives growers the opportunity to use several tactics to reduce the seedbank of these two species while growing mungbean. Professor Chauhan says that even at the most competitive row spacing of 50 cm, mungbean yield was halved when there were around 40 windmill grass plants/m2 or just 11 feathertop Rhodes grass plants/m2 growing in the crop. Feathertop Rhodes grass competes strongly and produces masses of seed if it gains a foothold in a mungbean crop. “The good news is that both species have a high level of seed retention at harvest because mungbean is such a quick growing crop,” he said. “This gives growers the chance to vastly reduce the amount of new seed entering the seedbank.” “Even though these weeds have high seed retention at harvest they also produce a huge quantity of seed,” he says. “At peak weed density in our field trials feathertop Rhodes grass produced over a quarter of a million seeds per metre square and windmill grass produced around 100,000 seeds per metre square. So, even if a small portion of this seed enters the seedbank it can still equate to a large number of seeds to potentially germinate the following spring.” Feathertop Rhodes grass is known to begin germinating in late winter and early spring, well before a mungbean crop is planted so every effort should be made to eliminate all flushes of this weed prior to planting mungbean. Haloxyfop is currently registered for fallow control of feathertop Rhodes grass ahead of mungbean production and can be used to reduce the weed burden prior to planting mungbeans in the most competitive configuration of 50 cm row spacing. To reduce the risk of Group A resistance, use a double knock in this pre-plant situation to control any Group A herbicide survivors of these difficult grass weeds. Paraquat is the usual chemical double-knock partner in these situations and should be applied to small, unstressed weeds within 7 to 10 days after the application of haloxyfop. Both these weed species can germinate close to the same time as the mungbean crop, so early weed control is essential to maximise yield and minimise early weed competition. Although these two grass species are susceptible to several pre-emergent herbicides, only flumioxazin (Valor) is registered for use in mungbean. This Group G herbicide can be applied at least two months pre-sowing to provide enhanced knockdown and residual control of feathertop Rhodes grass in mungbeans, taking care to follow the ‘critical comments’ to avoid crop injury. Extra emphasis should be put on ensuring the paddock is as clean as possible prior to planting mungbeans. Inter-row cultivation may be an option provided the young plants are not injured, as wounds can allow entry of diseases such as tan spot or halo blight. Clethodim applied before the mungbeans begin to flower will provide effective in-crop control of small, late germinating grass weeds. Mungbean crops are commonly desiccated prior to harvest using either Reglone or glyphosate. Both of these Chloris weed species are generally unaffected by these herbicides as mature plants, so the desiccation of the crop is unlikely to stop weed seed set. Mechanical options such as swathing are currently under investigation and may provide a more reliable way to stop seed set on these weeds prior to harvest. Professor Bhagirath Chauhan, University of Queensland, says windmill grass and feathertop Rhodes grass both retain a large portion of their seed at the time of mungbean harvest, making harvest weed seed control an practical option to help reduce the weed seedbank. “Mungbean is a good candidate for harvest weed seed control, using chaff lining, impact mills and the like, because the crop is harvested at ground level so any weed seed held on the plants should enter the harvester front,” says Professor Chauhan. The WeedSmart Big 6 approach to help manage resistant and hard to control weeds combines the power of multiple tactics throughout the year and across a full crop sequence to reduce weed seed set. Although feathertop Rhodes grass and windmill grass both produce vast quantities of seed, the seed is very short-lived. If left on the soil surface the seed remains viable for only one to two years. All efforts to prevent seed set will be rewarded with a rapid decline in the weed seedbank for these two difficult grasses. GRDC has recently updated the ‘Integrated weed management of feathertop Rhodes grass’ manual, which provides detailed information on the ecology of this important weed, along with the tactics and strategies that can be used throughout a cropping sequence to manage the seedbank. Other resources Giving summer legumes the competitive edge FTR grass demands attention to stop seed set Creating stiff competition for summer weeds GRDC manual: Integrated weed control for feathertop Rhodes grass 2020 update
Cover crops can swamp fallow weeds
Whether they are resistant to herbicide or not, weeds generally do not compete well with vigourous crops, but in the fallow they can rapidly take advantage of the lack of competition for resources. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researcher, Dr Annie Ruttledge has been running experiments at Kingaroy to investigate the benefits of bringing crop competition into the fallow phase of cropping systems in southern Queensland. Dr Annie Ruttledge, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland weeds researcher is conducting trials to identify cover crop species suited to southern Queensland that have weed-suppressive traits. With investment from GRDC the cover crop project, led by Charles Sturt University, is investigating the weed-suppressive power of various cover crop species suited to either summer or winter fallows at three locations in the northern grain growing region – Kingaroy, Narrabri and Wagga Wagga. At the Kingaroy site, both winter and summer-growing cover crops were shown to suppress weeds by over 85 per cent and up to 95 per cent, compared to an untreated fallow where the sown weeds were not inhibited by a cover crop. While this level of control is worthwhile on its own, it is also backed up with either a chemical or non-chemical tool to terminate the cover crop and kill any survivor weeds. “In winter in Kingaroy, the best cover crops for weed control were grazing oats and tillage radish,” says Annie. “These species provided early season ground cover and suppressed our mimic annual grass weed, Italian ryegrass, by up to 94 per cent relative to the weeds-only fallow. None of the cover crop species we tried were able to suppress the quick-growing mimic broadleaf weed, Oriental mustard.” Winter-growing cover crop monocultures and mixtures. In summer, Annie says the best cover crop options for Kingaroy were white French millet, Japanese millet, forage sorghum and buckwheat. Again, early-season biomass and ground cover was the key to suppression of both grass and broadleaf weed mimics by up to 95 per cent when compared to the weeds-only fallow. Summer-growing cover crop monocultures and mixtures. So far in this trial, there has been no measurable weed suppression benefit in sowing mixed species cover crops rather than monocultures. However, a mixed species cover crop may be preferred if a grower is wanting to achieve multiple outcomes. For example, grazing oats may be selected as a fast growing and highly competitive species and teamed with a less competitive legume to boost soil nitrogen stores. “Obviously, the species selected will depend on the growing region and soil type,” she says. “Cover crops also provide many other services to the farming system and so the grower could select a cover crop species, or mix of species, that would also provide a break from disease or insect pressure, increase moisture infiltration, build up organic matter or break down compaction.” Source: Charles Sturt University Cover crops are an extension of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactic of providing crop competition to suppress weed growth and reduce the weed seed bank in an integrated weed management program. Annie says that light interception is a critical driving force in the effectiveness of cover cropping for weed control. In selecting cover crops for weed suppression, choose species that grow well in your locality and that restrict light penetration to the soil through strong early growth and the development of a dense canopy. For greatest benefit, terminate cover crops at maximum biomass, which should coincide with the beginning of flowering; however, earlier termination may be required if soil moisture is limiting. There is a large body of research work now underway to investigate other aspects of incorporating cover cropping into farming systems in various regions. While this work focuses on weed suppression, other researchers are looking into soil water and nutrient use efficiency under different conditions and in various cropping systems. Other resources Summer cover crops video DAF Day family case study Cotton cover crops Cover crops research update video presentation GRDC Update paper – Cover crops to provide groundcover in dry seasons
Hit your target when spraying
The three things that the spray operator can and must control are nozzle choice, boom height and ground speed of the spray rig. Recently, there has been plenty of attention on some of the new technologies involving weed detection and artificial intelligence (AI), and companies like Goldacres are keen to deliver these to growers as they come to market, but their sales and marketing operations manager, Stephen Richards says the technologies behind effective and reliable droplet delivery to the target remain central to their spray rig designs. Goldacres sales and marketing operations manager, Stephen Richards says the technologies behind effective and reliable droplet delivery to the target are central to their spray rig designs. “At the end of the day, if the droplets of product don’t hit the target at the required rate you might as well have left the spray rig in the shed,” he says. “The best way to ensure the correct dose is applied and avoid spray drift is to pay close attention to setting the rig up correctly and operating it well.” In the last 20 years there has been a quiet revolution in nozzle design and much of this has been driven by the need to eliminate the risk of spray drifting downwind or being caught up in temperature inversion layers. “Years ago the standard nozzle was the XRT-jet flat fan nozzle that operated at a pressure of 1 to 4 bar, which gave good coverage in ideal spray conditions, but also produced more fine droplets that easily drift,” says Stephen. “Modern nozzles have been designed with the emphasis on producing medium to coarse droplets and using higher water rates to achieve adequate coverage.” The modern nozzles also have a wider pressure range of 1 to 6, or 1 to 8 bar, making the one nozzle type suitable for a variety of applications. When considering ground speed, Stephen says the technologies behind even rate delivery through the boom have made it possible for machinery manufacturers to build sprayers that can operate at higher speeds and cover more area in a day. “The Goldacres self-propelled sprayers have had a 3-tier nozzle system for about 20 years, where the first set of small nozzles come on when the machine is operating at 5 to 10 km/hr then the second and third sets activate when the machine is operating at higher speeds,” he says. This ensures that the correct product rate is applied at the headlands and wherever the operator needs to slow down. Another option is the ‘pulse width modulation’ system to adjust the volume through the nozzles in response to changes in ground speed. “Pulsing is particularly good for turn compensation with a large boom, where nozzles near the outside tip are typically moving twice as fast as nozzles near the machine,” says Stephen. “This means product would be under-applied at the tip and over-applied near the centre. Consistent under-dosing of herbicide is a particular risk in the evolution of herbicide resistance.” As boom length increases so does the need for high tech suspension and rate compensation for variable speed and turning. The boom height is also critical in reducing drift risk associated with the air turbulence behind the spray rig. A 20 cm change in height from the recommended 50 cm above ground to 70 cm can quadruple the quantity of air-borne droplets. “With booms now as wide as 48 m the suspension system is more important than ever,” says Stephen. “Goldacres machines use a system that minimises yaw, roll and pitch of the boom to give a stable spray platform and optimise spray coverage in undulating or uneven paddocks.” Before heading out to spray Stephen recommends operators check for blocked nozzles and at the start of each season, do a jug test to check for nozzle wear. The large investment in spray technology can be undone if nozzle choice and maintenance is neglected. “The jug test needs to show that each nozzle is delivering within 10 per cent of the nominated volume per minute for the specific nozzle type and size,” he says. “The cost of a new set of nozzles pales in significance against the cost of product wastage, a spray failure or the evolution of herbicide resistance on your farm.” Before heading out to spray Stephen recommends operators check for blocked nozzles and at the start of each season, do a jug test to check for nozzle wear. The WeedSmart Big 6 tactics that form an integrated weed management program to reduce the risk of herbicide resistance in weeds are supported by companies like Goldacres, who understand the importance of effective and safe herbicide application. Goldacres is working with Bilberry to perfect the artificial intelligence systems required to bring green-on-green weed detection to Australian farmers. These systems, along with the optical spraying technology that has been used for spot-spraying in fallows for over 20 years, are expected to deliver more targeted herbicide use into the future.
Keeping glyphosate resistance rare
This has been the key message of weed management experts in Australia ever since 1996, when Australia’s worst weed, annual ryegrass, was found to be resistant to our most useful herbicide, glyphosate. A few years later, the Australian Glyphosate Sustainability Working Group (AGSWG) was set up under the CRC for Australian Weed Management (Weeds CRC) to bring together commercial and research expertise from around the country with a determination to ‘keep glyphosate resistance rare’. With investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, AGSWG established a database of confirmed cases of glyphosate resistance in Australia and developed information products for all users of this important weed control tool. After guiding growers and agronomists through a critical 15 years of managing glyphosate resistance in Australia the AGSWG has been disbanded, however the work of advising farmers and other weed managers will continue. Keep weed numbers low and do everything you can to prevent resistant weeds from setting seed. Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) director, Professor Hugh Beckie, says glyphosate means so much more than weed control to Australian farmers, particularly for dryland cropping. “This herbicide has been the means of achieving incredible productivity increases in dryland crop production, initially providing an alternative to tillage for fallow weed control and thus conserving soil moisture over summer,” he said. “It is also now used as a broad spectrum knockdown pre-seeding and post-harvest in many crops and in RoundUp Ready cotton and canola.” “As predicted, the incidence of glyphosate resistance is ramping up, having been heavily relied on for weed control since its introduction to Australia in 1976,” said Prof Beckie. “It is important to understand that glyphosate is not only used extensively on farms but also along roadways, fence lines, railway lines, in public parks and in home gardens. This means that resistance can, and does, evolve in many different settings and can move across the landscape in weed seeds and pollen.” According to the International Herbicide-Resistant Weed Database there are currently 20 species and thousands of populations known to have evolved resistance to glyphosate in Australia. While this is a serious situation, and glyphosate resistance can no longer be considered ‘rare’, it is still possible to regain control of weed populations that have evolved resistance. One of the useful products that AGSWG published was a series of factsheets outlining the practices that should be followed and those that should be avoided. These factsheets have recently been updated and published on the WeedSmart website. There is a factsheet for each of the main glyphosate user groups – grain producers, cotton growers, horticulturalists, orchardists and vinegrowers, irrigators and managers of public lands and utilities. While the principles remain the same for all industries, there are some practical variations in implementation. Using a diverse weed control program and taking care to apply glyphosate in the optimal way can tip the scales in the grower’s favour and keep this valuable product as an option well into the future. Download glyphosate factsheets Northern grains and cotton factsheet Winter grains and irrigation factsheet Orchards and vineyards factsheet Roadside and railways factsheet Vegetable production factsheet
When the wind drops, stop spraying
GRDC Grower Relations Manager – North, Richard Holzknecht, says while it is important that growers control fallow weeds early to maximise efficacy, it’s equally important spraying is only undertaken when weather conditions are right. Spray equipment also needs to be set up and operated appropriately. “While spraying at night and in the morning is not restricted, product labels state that chemicals should not be applied when hazardous inversions are present,” Mr Holzknecht said. He warned off-target damage could occur from physical drift and inversion drift, which posed a significant risk during summer spraying as day/night fluctuations in temperature often result in inversions forming overnight and or early in the morning. “Wind speed, in particular, should be monitored at least every 15 to 20 minutes and if the wind drops, spraying should stop,” he said. The main factors influencing drift potential were weather conditions at the time of spraying and how spray machinery was operated in terms of spray quality, speed and boom height. Photo GRDC “So, planning and being proactive is extra important. Growers need to talk with their neighbours to determine the location of any sensitive crops, such as cotton, and ensure they understand label recommendations and permit regulations, particularly those governing the use of 2,4-D.” Mr Holzknecht said the main factors influencing drift potential were weather conditions at the time of spraying and how spray machinery was operated in terms of spray quality, speed and boom height. In an inversion, chemical droplets can remain suspended in concentrated form and be carried significant distances. “It is important growers understand the weather conditions that indicate an inversion is present and avoid spraying during these times. “Surface temperature inversions are often associated with calm, low wind conditions, dust remaining suspended, fog or mist forming in low areas and sounds travelling long distances. All these signs indicate the risk of inversion drift is significantly high.” Mr Holzknecht advised growers and spray contractors to closely monitor weather conditions. The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is actively investing in spray application research and training to assist industry in implementing best-practice spray systems, and it recently released a new video explaining the key factors affecting spray drift. Source article: Spray safely to reduce drift risk this summer Spray drift in-depth resources GRDC Spray drift hub Stop the drift webinar Are you going spraying, or killing weeds? How do you manage summer weeds without spraying at night? Spray wisely and well webinar Effect of formulation and environment on dicamba volatility webinar Spray well – correct nozzles, adjuvants and water rates
More lambs, less weeds in sheep containment systems
Livestock containment areas allow the Eagles to rest their pastures and fodder crops, efficiently use a variety of feeds and restrict the spread of weed seeds. On top of this they have also seen benefits in growth rates and lambing percentages. Sam says the six or seven hectares they have available for containment was not expensive to build and has made it much easier to manage their livestock and cropping enterprises. “I’d definitely recommend building containment areas for sheep,” he says. “It is such a simple concept that has so many benefits. They really help to manage ground cover on your pastures and cropping paddocks, and in dry times they make feeding out much less stressful. In the last drought we had up to 6500 sheep in containment, including lambs, and I could feed them all in less than three hours, and didn’t have to feed every day.” Sam and Emily use the containment areas for several purposes throughout the year. Although they generally keep their pasture and cropping paddocks separate, the sheep play an important role in weed management across the whole farm. Horsham producer Sam Eagle uses every opportunity to maximise the synergies within a mixed farming operation. “The containment areas allow us to bring in feed from outside if necessary and feed out screenings from our own grain, being confident that any weed seeds that come with that feed won’t be spread around the farm,” says Sam. “It is easy to manage any weeds that germinate in such a defined and small area of the farm. “When we buy in sheep we shear them as soon as they arrive to remove any risk of them introducing weeds like Bathurst burr,” he says. “We use the containment areas to avoid overgrazing pastures so the sheep eat the weeds like barley grass as well as the more palatable species. They also provide an effective double knock effect for weeds that have herbicide resistance.” Livestock containment paddocks boost productivity while stopping the spread of herbicide resistant weed seeds. The Eagles cut weedy paddocks for hay or silage and feed it out in the containment areas where they can control any weeds that germinate. Sam says above-ground pit silage has been very cost effective at around $10 a cubic meter to cut the silage and store it under a tarp before feeding out in the containment paddocks. “Silage is a very good weed control tactic,” he says. “You cut it early, so you are stopping weed seed set, and after three days of good weather you can spray out the paddock for a spray fallow.” The Eagles prefer to either graze a crop fully or grow it for grain, having found that the ‘grain and graze’ tactic for dual purpose crops had an unacceptable yield penalty and opened up the canopy to allow weeds to grow through and compete in the grain phase. Grazing cover crops and failed grain crops generates cash flow and helps manage weeds. Sam keeps an ungrazed reference area in dual purpose crops so he can remove grazing pressure at the right time if he wants to let the crop go through to grain. They have found Moby barley plus clover to be the best cover crop to graze and then spray out. Oats and pasture are both cut either for hay or silage to conserve fodder and remove weed seeds. “In the cropping paddocks sheep will eat most of the weeds that evolve herbicide resistance, like wild radish, annual ryegrass, fleabane and whip thistle. They also generate cash flow from cover crops and from grain crops that don’t go through to harvest due to drought, flood, weeds or frost,” says Sam. “Over summer the sheep reduce our herbicide costs and reduce the stubble load, which makes sowing easier. Once the feed supply runs out, we put the sheep into containment until they start to lamb. This allows the pastures and crops to get ahead and gives us good feed to put the ewes into for lambing.” “The sheep can make inter-row sowing more difficult in our CTF system so we have to be careful to cut the stubble 300 mm or less above ground level so the stalks don’t lodge across the inter-row as the sheep graze the stubbles,” he says. Having used narrow windrow burning as their harvest weed seed control tactic for six years, Sam and Emily used a contract harvester with an impact mill for their harvester for the 2018 season. They were pleased with the job the mill did and are looking to purchase one of their own once the technology matures a little more. They use crop-topping in pulses and windrowing in canola to stop weed seed set and also spray herbicide under the cutter bar in canola. “We test weeds for herbicide resistance so we know what still works and plan out a diverse herbicide program with multiple chemical groups used in a broad crop rotation,” says Sam. Other than the grazing and weed management benefits, Sam and Emily have also found numerous productivity benefits for their 2500-strong merino flock. Using the containment yards for joining has seen increased conception rates and after preg-testing their ewes, Sam and Emily make separate mobs for the twins and singles so they can better manage the ewe’s nutrition while in containment. Once the lambs are weaned and are brought into containment their growth and feed utilisation rates are higher than when paddock grazed, meaning the returns on feed inputs are higher and the Eagles are able to either turn off hoggets earlier or at a higher weight. Building and using containment areas Size and design – they can be any size, provided an allowance is made for 2 to 5 m2 per sheep (2000 to 5000 sheep per ha). At the right stocking density the containment yards compact well and do not generate dust or strong odour. Place the food and water sources as far away from each other as possible in each containment yard – this helps keep the water troughs clean. Water – sheep require 6 litres of water each per day and more in very hot weather. Flow is more important than pressure, so use thicker pipe (e.g. 30 to 50 mm) to supply the troughs. Feeders – feed can be placed in self-feeders, feed troughs or on the ground. Place the water and feed sources at opposite ends of each containment yard to keep the water clean for longer, and provide as much shade as possible. Shade – think about shade when designing the containment areas and look for ways to provide as much shade as possible. Protect any established trees. Feedstuffs – utilise a variety of feeds such as screenings, canola, hay, purchased grain and silage. Match the nutrient value of the feed with the class of animal you are feeding and supply any necessary mineral supplements. Get advice if you don’t have a good knowledge of animal nutrition. Stock health – give sheep 6-in-1 vaccines and drench before putting a mob into containment. Key benefits Less feed wastage means feed costs are reduced and productivity is higher with more lambs produced (higher conception rate) and faster weight gain compared to paddock grazing. The containment paddocks can have a variety of uses including being a fire break, lamb feedlot, shearing holding yard and joining paddock. Move sheep out once lambing commences. Holding sheep in the containment paddocks allows the pastures and fodder crops to create a green wedge of feed before being grazed. They also provide a suitable place to hold sheep once the pastures and fodder crops have run out in summer, maintaining groundcover levels across the farm. Good for your mental health in drought conditions as you don’t have to drive around dry paddocks every day, feeding doesn’t take as long each day, ground cover is preserved across the farm and the sheep can be kept in good condition. More information Eagle family case study Sheep confinement area fact sheet
Stacking the odds against awnless barnyard grass
Unfortunately, glyphosate resistance seems to confer no such disadvantage on awnless barnyard grass. In a recent random survey of summer-growing weeds in the northern grains region, 36 per cent of awnless barnyard grass (Echinochloa colona) populations proved resistant to glyphosate. Awnless barnyard grass response to no crop competition – glyphosate resistant (GR) ABG with 0 mungbean plants/pot (left) and glyphosate susceptible (GS) ABG with 0 mungbean plants/pot (right). Through a focused effort to better understand this problematic weed, GRDC invested in a series of studies on various aspects of its ecology. This work was done by QAAFI weed researchers, led by Dr Bhagirath Chauhan at the University of Queensland, Gatton.< “Awnless barnyard grass is one of the top three most problematic weeds of summer crops and fallows in Australia,” says Dr Chauhan. “Our studies looked at environmental and cultural effects on germination, the impact of crop competition and early weed control, seed retention at harvest and the effect of low rates of glyphosate.” These studies confirmed that awnless barnyard grass can emerge in spring, summer and autumn in Queensland, with temperature being the main driver of seed germination.“Germination is rapid for seed exposed to the light on the soil surface, as in no-till summer fallows,” he says. “As the temperature increases, seed buried up to 8 cm below the surface can also germinate. Covering the soil with crop residue suppressed germination by about 20 per cent, from 70 per cent without cover down to 47 per cent with sorghum trash.” To run down the seedbank of awnless barnyard grass, whether glyphosate resistant or not, requires two to three years of no recruitment through ‘seed rain’. Strategic tillage is only useful if the seed bank is buried to a depth of more than 8 cm and then not disturbed again for many years as the seed will persist for longer than two years once buried. “The best way to reduce seed production in this weed is to grow competitive crops in summer and to focus on controlling weeds for the first two weeks after crop emergence,” says Dr Chauhan. “Both mungbean and sorghum crops can significantly suppress awnless barnyard grass growth and reduce the quantity of seed set over the warmer months.” “Compared with weed plants grown alone, mungbean interference of four and eight plants per pot reduced weed seed production by 85 to 95 per cent. These reductions were similar for both glyphosate resistant and susceptible biotypes.” Mungbean crop competition suppresses awnless barnyard grass (crop plants removed to show the effect on weed growth and habit. From left to right: GR ABG with 4 mungbean plants/pot; GS ABG with 4 mungbean plants/pot; GR ABG with 8 mungbean plants/pot; GS ABG with 8 mungbean plants/pot. Likewise, even a sorghum crop at one metre row spacing, suppressed weed growth and seed production. Awnless barnyard grass produces 4000 seeds per plant when emergence is with the crop, 1000 seeds per plant when emergence is two weeks later and less than 100 seeds per plant when emergence is four and six weeks after crop emergence. “This shows the importance of early weed control – even in widely-spaced sorghum,” says Dr Chauhan. “Plants that do emerge with the sorghum crop or within the first two weeks retain about 45 per cent of their seed at harvest. Although larger plants produce more seed than smaller ones, plant size did not predict the level of seed retention at sorghum harvest.” Awnless barnyard grass response to early weed control in wide-row (1 m) sorghum – BYG emerging with the crop (left) vs emerging after the crop (right). While harvest weed seed control might be less practical in sorghum than other summer crops, removing almost half of the seed produced in-crop would be a valuable contribution to reducing the seed bank. The random weed survey indicated that all populations, whether resistant to glyphosate or not, were susceptible to propaquizafop, clethodim and imazapic, providing some herbicide options for growers to achieve early weed control.n terms of pure plant ecology, there were few surprises – some awnless barnyard grass biotypes are more invasive than others, but growth and seed production of this weed at all moisture levels and environmental conditions ensures survival of the species and contributes to its weedy nature. “In a study of ten awnless barnyard grass populations we saw large variations in many traits, but growth behavior and seed production potential in these populations did not help predict the likelihood of glyphosate resistance evolving,” he says. “Soil moisture is the main driver of weed growth and seed production. However, when this weed is well-watered even the glyphosate-resistant populations were three times more susceptible to the herbicide than when the weed is water-stressed.” In both resistant and susceptible biotypes, very low rates of glyphosate were shown to stimulate growth. This is known as the ‘hormesis phenomenon’, where a stress can stimulate a positive response. Plants treated with glyphosate at active ingredient rates of 2.5 to 40 g/ha grew taller and produced more leaves, tillers, inflorescences and seeds than the control treatment. These rates are far lower than label rates for awnless barnyard grass and demonstrate the importance of accurate mixing and application of herbicides to ensure lethal rates are applied. These weed ecology studies have demonstrated that glyphosate resistance in awnless barnyard grass does not confer any advantage or disadvantage over susceptible biotypes. The recommendation then is to treat all populations as resistant to glyphosate and to stack as many of the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics against it as possible, even if each tactic only provides a relatively small control benefit. More resources Webinar – Weed biology insight to improve the management of feathertop Rhodes grass and barnyard grass (the barnyard grass segment starts at the 30 min mark) The extent of herbicide resistance in summer grasses revealed Getting on top of barnyard grass in summer crops and fallow Creating stiff competition against summer weeds
Crop competition – give your crops the edge
The uncomfortable truth is that in many paddocks the weeds are winning the battles for space and resources. Growing crops that out-compete weeds gives a double whammy benefit of more crop and less weeds — generating more profit! Try some or all of these ideas to give your cropping system the competitive advantage: Get the soil pH right and do what you can to improve overall crop nutrition Set up your planter to sow crops on the narrowest row configuration possible within the other constraints of crop production Sow within the optimal planting window for the crop and your location Choose the most competitive crop type (e.g. barley over wheat) and the most competitive variety or hybrid of your chosen crop Select crops with early vigorous growth Set the crop up for success with optimal weed control prior to planting, using double knock tactics and effective pre-emergent herbicides Sow east-west rather than north-south if you can Use sowing rates at the upper end of the recommended range for the crop And here’s more advice from the WeedSmart crop competition experts: Can planting a tight crop improve weed control? Use your crop as a weapon Using your crop to fight weeds Webinar with Prof Deirdre Lemerle: Using your crop to fight weeds Up the competition Employ crop competitiveness to combat weeds Higher seeding rates lower weeds Narrow row spacing: is it worth going back? AHRI insight: Sow west young man AHRI insight: Left jab, right hook AHRI insight: Heal thy soil, heal thy crops, kill thy weeds
Harvest tips, crop topping + trifluralin resistance
Development Officer at Merredin Research Station Glen Riethmuller gives some useful insights into harvesting low, crop lifters and also discusses crop topping. We also hear from Meckering farmer Darren Morrell. He recently received resistance test results which showed one of the farms he is leasing has 80% trifluralin resistance. Darren talks about what tactics he’ll be using to get on top of the weed problem he is now facing. Listen to the podcast below. Glen Riethmuller at Merredin Research Station
Crop topping, using Sharpen & getting ready for harvest
In the podcast this week, we focus on crop topping and the relatively new herbicide, Sharpen. In our last podcast, Andrew Messina talked to us about Case IH harvester set-up. This week farmer Lance Turner gives us the rundown on John Deere gear. AHRI and WeedSmart Agronomist Greg Condon talks to us about the benefits of crop topping and what to do if you suspect you’ve got herbicide resistance. We also hear from BASF Technical Services Manager, Phil Hoult, about the herbicide Sharpen. It’s now registered as a harvest aid in winter pulses, for winter cleaning of Lucerne and for wild radish seed-set control in winter cereals, so we’ll find out in more detail about its applications for broadacre croppers.
Spray drift & crop competition
Join your hosts Jessica Strauss and Peter Newman in the first podcast for March! Spraying weeds and choosing seeds are the hot topics this podcast. We chat with Nufarm Australia Spray Application Specialist Bill Gordon, who gives some great tips and insights on correct set-up. Rohan Brill also joins us for insight on choosing canola seeds and the benefits of crop competition! Our webinar series is also kicking off for 2017 next week! If you’d like to register for the March 7 webinar with Rohan Brill, who will be going into more detail on crop competition, click here!