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
Rising significance of resistant barley grass
Barley grass has a number of tactics up its sleeve to help evade both herbicide and non-herbicide weed control methods. This has made it a weed of interest for the University of Adelaide’s Weed Science Group, led by Associate Professor Gurjeet Gill, who are investigating the ecology of emerging weeds in the low rainfall zones of southern Australia University of Adelaide researchers Dr Gurjeet Gill and Ben Fleet say that understanding weed ecology and undertaking herbicide screening will help find ways to manage increasing resistance in barley grass. With investment from the GRDC, Dr Gill and his team analysed the dormancy traits and herbicide resistance status of 146 random samples of barley grass collected by agronomists in WA, SA, Victoria and NSW in 2018. Of the 146 random samples collected, five per cent of populations showed resistance to Group A herbicides and 21 per cent showed resistance to Group B herbicides. There was no evidence of resistance to glyphosate or paraquat. There were also large differences between the populations in the level of seed dormancy as seen by the timing of seedling emergence in autumn. Barley grass populations from the Eyre Peninsula in particular were much slower to establish than those from other low rainfall regions. Late emerging weeds can escape weed control with knockdown herbicides. In a later study, growers from the Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF) collected samples of barley grass seed in 2019 from paddocks where growers had experienced difficulty in controlling barley grass with herbicides. These samples were tested for resistance screening in 2020. Resistance screening of barley grass from suspect paddocks on the Eyre Peninsula, SA. “The expectation was that most populations from the targeted survey in 2019 would be resistant to Group A herbicides,” says Dr Gill. “Resistance to the Group A herbicides was confirmed in 17 of the 22 populations from EP, or 77 per cent. Within this Group, resistance to quizalofop was 100 per cent for the suspect populations while there remains some useful activity from clethodim and butroxydim, which will help the growers in the short term.” Herbicide resistant barley grass shows no response to a high rate of the commonly-used Group A herbicide, quizalofop (right) compared to a plant from a susceptible population (left). The same populations were also tested with Group B imidazolinone chemistry, which offers some activity against Group A resistant barley grass, although one of the EP populations was completely resistant to the IMI herbicide. The good news is all of these populations remain susceptible to glyphosate and paraquat. Dr Gill says that research and field observation confirm there is significant variability in barley grass populations’ ecology and herbicide resistance status. “Understanding how different barley grass populations behave is key to their management,” he says. “The seed dormancy and seed shedding traits of a population have important implications in terms of management options. Barley grass often evades pre-emergent herbicides through delayed emergence and at the other end of the season barley grass often sheds its seed before crop maturity, so harvest weed seed control is rendered ineffective in many circumstances.” Barley grass is susceptible to strong crop competition, and on mixed farms Dr Gill says some farmers have had success using pyroxasulfone herbicide in wheat ahead of a pasture phase, where good grazing management can limit seed production in barley grass. Applying the WeedSmart Big 6 integrated weed management strategy to barley grass will keep herbicides working for longer and maximise the impact of cultural control tactics.
Long-time advocate joins the WeedSmart team
Chris Davey has been advocating planned and sustainable weed control programs with growers on the Yorke Peninsula for many years and has been a great supporter of the WeedSmart message in his patch and beyond. In August Chris accepted an offer to join the WeedSmart team as the new Southern Extension Agronomist. He joins Peter Newman in the Western region, Greg and Kirrily Condon in the East and Paul McIntosh in the North. Chris Davey, YP-AG has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists and played a key role in coordinating the 2020 WeedSmart Week in Clare, SA. Chris has hit the ground running with his first responsibility being to coordinate the 2020 WeedSmart Week event in extraordinary circumstances. The annual 3-day event went off without a hitch around Clare in early September, with growers and agronomists from across South Australia hearing from experts in herbicide resistance management and visiting farms where growers have implemented a range of strategies to keep weed numbers low. “WeedSmart Week is a terrific way to share ideas and information surrounding integrated weed management,” says Chris. “We are all challenged with the task of using herbicides strategically within a management program that also includes many non-chemical tactics. There is solid science behind the recommendations and experience in the field shows that WeedSmart’s Big 6 approach is practical and effective.” Justin Harris, Davon Pastoral Co, Thomas Plain (second from left) was one of the six host farmers for WeedSmart Week 2020, Clare SA. In welcoming Chris to the WeedSmart team, program manager Lisa Mayer says having an extension agronomist of Chris’ calibre dedicated to sharing the WeedSmart message with growers in southern Australia offers many opportunities to ramp up the pressure on herbicide resistant weeds in the region. “Southern growers are facing some serious issues with herbicide resistance impacting on their farming decisions,” she says. “Chris and the other extension agronomists in the WeedSmart team have a wealth of experience and knowledge, particularly in their own regions, and this underpins their work in adapting the Big 6 principles to suit the conditions in each farming system.” “We are thrilled to have been able to successfully deliver WeedSmart Week in South Australia this year amid great uncertainty,” says Ms Mayer. “The forum and field tours came together very successfully due to the local support from Chris and the YP-AG team, along with our collaborators – Pinion Advisory agronomist, Jana Dixon, and the Hart Field Site Group.” WeedSmart program manager Lisa Mayer and GRDC Manager Weeds, Jason Emms at the 2019 WeedSmart Week in Emerald, Qld. WeedSmart is the industry voice delivering science-backed weed control solutions with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), major herbicide, machinery and seed companies, and university and government research partners, all of whom have a stake in sustainable farming systems. WeedSmart Southern Extenion agronomist Chris Davey discussing the pros and cons of different harvest weed seed control systems with growers Gary Bruce (left) and Jarrad Cock (right) at the WeedSmart Week machinery site.
Taking a single shot at weeds
As farmers get their hands on fast and accurate weed mapping technology, the frequency of blanket herbicide spraying can be greatly reduced. With an accurate digital map that shows where the weeds are right now, most boomspray rigs can become low-cost spot sprayers. For the past two years John Single and his son Tony have been using the air-borne weed sensor, Single Shot, developed by John’s other son Ben, to rapidly detect and map weeds on their dryland cropping property, Narratigah, near Coonamble, NSW. John Single with a drone carrying the Single Shot weed sensor. By separating the weed mapping and weed spraying tasks the Singles can take a planned approach to their weed management throughout the year. Ben saw the benefits of separating the weed detection and weed spraying tasks and set about building the platform and working with Robotic Systems to bring the idea to reality. “The main aim is to stay ahead of herbicide resistance,” says John. “Ten years ago we started work on developing drone-mounted sensors that could take over the task of detecting weeds in a green-on-brown situation. Many sprayers, particularly later models, do not require any modifications and there are many benefits in having the weed mapping done separately rather than on-the-go.” Weed maps enable growers to take a planned approach to their weed management throughout the year and to build a historical record of weeds in a paddock. The Single Shot sensor maps green-on-brown but are not limited to fallow situations. The sensors can be used in newly sown crops to map weeds that emerged on the planting rain or were missed in a previous application. These patches, or individual weeds, can be treated in-crop or a pre-emergent can be applied to the patches at the end of the season. The sensor can also be used in-crop to identify high biomass areas within a paddock where high weed density requires more drastic action, such as cutting for hay, and in wide-row crops where the canopy does not fully close and weeds can be detected between the rows. Screen shot of the Trimble guidance screen in operation with a Single Shot spray map. The Singles have used the Single Shot technology in several different management scenarios already and the possibilities seem endless. John says they have used the sensor to identify survivor marshmallow and milk thistle plants in fallow and then spot spray them with a high rate of Starane to prevent seed set. They have mapped feathertop Rhodes grass in wheat to generate a map for applying pre-emergent herbicide post-harvest and have filtered data to segregate weeds based on size, giving them the option to apply a blanket spray on smaller weeds and a herbicide spike to treat larger weeds, or to use a second boom to apply two different products or rates. Where pre-emergent herbicides are used, a perimeter determined by the user can be added to cover the seed distribution area of the mother plant. Another important role for Single Shot at Narratigah is to scout for survivor weeds after herbicide applications. The Singles crop 4500 ha and can map the farm at a rate of up to 300 ha per hour. This is one of the most important tasks in a herbicide program and yet it is generally not done effectively due to the time required. Having ‘eyes in the sky’ makes routine and accurate scouting practical after every spray treatment. The sensor is capable of covering 300 ha/hr under continuous flight or targeting weeds greater than 5 cm diameter. Under normal operating conditions, and including battery changes, the Singles achieve a work rate of around 200 ha/hour. Critically, data processing can be done in the field, if the internet is available at the site, and is done at a speed 1.7 times faster than flight time. Once a weed map has been created, the drone can be sent out again to take high resolution imagery of plants in specific locations in the paddock for identification purposes, allowing John and Tony to plan a herbicide program with their agronomist, based on exactly what’s in the paddock. When it comes to spraying, having the weeds mapped before the spray operator gets in the cab means that the job can be done when conditions are suitable, including at night. The real power of the Single Shot system is the ability to run simulations and to re-process the data to fine-tune a herbicide program based on weed size or density. The sensor requires just a 1 cm ‘brown’ perimeter around a weed to be able to detect the weed size. The weed maps are built from images that are ten thousand times higher resolution than satellite images, giving a 1 cm sampling size. Every part of the paddock is photographed twice so obstacles such as stubble occlusion can be significantly reduced. The drone flies at a height of 75 m, following a pre-determined path, and can also be flown lower and or slower if necessary to collect specific data. The sensor also accurately identifies stressed weeds. “Information is power and this has really put us back in control of our weed management,” says John. “We know how much chemical to buy to do the job at hand, we know the costs and can alter the chemistry to suit a budget if necessary, we can choose to blanket spray or spot spray, and our ability to apply the double knock tactic is greatly improved.” Ready for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spraying In a bid to be one step ahead of the game, the Single Shot software will also calculate the shortest path for the sprayer, which is most useful when doing spot spraying on an ATV, or in the future, to deliver herbicide via a drone-mounted sprayer (UAV) or autonomous vehicles. “We ran a scenario for treating about two thousand survivor weeds in a 125 ha paddock using a spray drone,” says Ben. “To apply a blanket spray to the paddock, the spray drone would need to travel about 310 km. Using the Single Shot software we determined the shortest path to reach all the weeds, which cut down the time required to do the job to just two and a half hours. The sprayer would only be applying herbicide for 16 km of the 54 km flight, and just 5 per cent of the paddock would have herbicide applied.” Left: Actual weed coverage in a 125 ha paddock (blue line is the boundary, and purple is weed). Right: The path that the UAV would travel using the shortest route computation. Weed mapping using tools and systems like Single Shot are putting growers back in the driving seat to cost-effectively and consistently implement the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics that underpin sustainable herbicide use and maintain productivity gains through no-till farming systems.
Throwing the Big 6 at weeds in South Australia
Low weed seed banks underpin all profitable farming enterprises. Keeping weed numbers low and quickly regaining control of blow-outs is the sole purpose of the WeedSmart program. Each year growers and agronomists are invited to attend WeedSmart Week, somewhere in Australia. This year the 3-day event will begin with a 1-day forum at Clare Golf Club on Tuesday 1 September. The following two days will be spent touring farms in the Clare region to see how growers are implementing the WeedSmart Big 6 tactics to minimise the impact of herbicide resistance on their businesses. The WeedSmart Week theme ‘Diversify and Disrupt – Use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds’ says it all! YP AG senior agronomist Chris Davey (right) is encouraging growers from South Australia and beyond to attend WeedSmart Week in September as a good opportunity to formulate a plan to manage weeds throughout the year and through the rotation using the WeedSmart Big 6. This flagship event of the WeedSmart program is supported by GRDC as the major sponsor and a wide range of herbicide and machinery companies that have skin in the weed control game. This year’s event will be co-hosted by Pinion Advisory, YP AG and the Hart Field Site Group and will be the sixth WeedSmart Week event. WeedSmart program leader, Lisa Mayer says the event in Clare is the first of its kind for South Australia, giving growers and agronomists access to practical research and implementation of tactics that are known to effectively manage the risk of herbicide resistance in weeds. “Weeds have gained the upper hand on some farms and have too much influence over farming system decisions,” she said. “The herbicide and non-herbicide tactics that form the WeedSmart Big 6 have been researched and demonstrated in the field – we know they work! Growers and agronomists in each region and on each farm can adapt the Big 6 principles to bring more diversity to their farming system and bamboozle weeds.” “WeedSmart is committed to exploring and promoting farming systems and technologies that produce ‘more yield, fewer weeds’ every year.” WeedSmart Week brings together a wealth of knowledge and experience from local and inter-state growers, researchers, advisors and technology experts – putting the spotlight on herbicide resistance and weed management. Growers can see what is and isn’t working first-hand and consider how key principles can be applied directly to their own farming operation. At the forum and on the bus trip growers, agronomists and researchers put all the options and ideas on the table for discussion. In August last year, leading agronomist from YP AG, Chris Davey attended the Horsham event along with Pinion Advisory agronomist, Jana Dixon, and growers Jarred Tilley and Adam Cook. Chris says it was a very valuable experience that gave him the opportunity to interact with growers and industry people involved in weed management in a range of environments. The machinery displays and demonstrations at WeedSmart Week events are a great opportunity to see some of the newest weed management technology and grower innovations. “The interaction between attendees was excellent as growers and agronomists swapped experiences and things they had learned about tackling certain weeds or modifying equipment,” said Chris. “Having WeedSmart week in Clare this year is a fantastic opportunity, particularly for South Australian growers, to get together and discuss new ideas and learn how different tactics are working for other growers.” There will be a focus on both herbicide and non-herbicide tools and plenty of chances to see how mechanical tactics like harvest weed seed control can fit into a variety of farming systems to drive down weed numbers. Jarred Tilley, a mixed farmer at Kapunda, will be one of the host farmers for the WeedSmart Week farm tour. Jarred is tackling glyphosate resistant ryegrass and has recently added a chaff cart to their weed management strategy. He has had good success with baling the chaff and using it to improve the profitability of their livestock enterprise. The growers, agronomists and researchers speaking and participating in expert panels at the Day 1 forum will spark important discussions about herbicide resistance and how the Big 6 tactics can be used to target the weed species and farming systems in the southern cropping region. There’s one thing for sure – doing nothing is not an option. Day 2 and 3 will be bus tours to farms in the Northern Yorke Peninsula and the Mid to Lower North regions around Clare. Attendees will have several opportunities to see and discuss cutting-edge technologies such as the latest sprayer technology and a range of harvest weed seed control implements, including impact mills and chaff decks, and will find out how other growers in the region are implementing the Big 6 weed management tactics in a variety of farming systems and environments. Register for this important 3-day event for the ‘early bird’ single ticket price of $165 (GST incl), guaranteeing a seat on both the bus tour days as well as the forum, all fully catered here! WeedSmart is committed to the health, safety and well-being of everyone working in, and in support of, the Australian grains industry. WeedSmart Week may be postponed in response to the current coronavirus outbreak, and in accordance with Australian Government advice in relation to social distancing.