View time: 13.27 minutes

Rod Birch on how the Big 6 is keeping weeds at bay at Catalina Farms

We recently caught up with Rod and Daniel Birch from Catalina Farms, just east of Coorow in WA’s wheatbelt. Rod gave an overview of what Big 6 principles are working for them and he also explained how they’re approaching weed control at new property acquisition, ‘Koobabbie’, which until last year, hadn’t changed hands for 115 years.

Catalina Farms is approximately 13,000 ha of 100% cropping, with 65% wheat, with the other 35% comprising of 20% canola and 15% lupins. The longterm rainfall is about 330ml per year and around 250-280ml of growing season rainfall.

Taking on a new property usually has its challenges, but there can be upsides too. Some of the challenges at Koobabbie were related to the fact it had been a livestock property and cropping machinery had never having been run through it. However, Rod explained that they have had some great news about the herbicides they are able to use.

Through the University of Western Australia’s resistance testing service, run by Dr Roberto Busi at AHRI, they found out some older chemistries were still effective, which was a pleasant surprise. Daniel Birch explains below in the Regional Update Podcast what they found out and how they used this information in their planning.

Video breakdown

  • 1:10 Crop rotations – Rod’s favourite rotation is Lupins – wheat – canola – wheat. It provides a lot of diversity for Modes of Action, as well as allows for nitrogen to go back into the soil through the lupin phase.
  • 2:10 Crop Competition – the Birches are big fans of crop competition and it’s an essential part of their approach to controlling weeds.
  • 3:00 Double knock – conditions haven’t been suitable for a double knock since 2016, but when the opportunity arises, it’s an important tool.
  • 4:21 Mix and rotate herbicides – the crop rotations used at Catalina allow for really diverse chemical groups to be used, which is a great tactic to keep resistance at bay.
  • 5:52 Stopping weed seed set – the Birches are trying to eliminate as many weeds in the crop as possible. Crop topping is a tool that they employ, as well as late spraying where necessary.
  • 6:49 Harvest weed seed control – seed destruction is on the horizon at Catalina, but logistically has been a bit tricky.
  • 7:21 Acquiring Koobabbie – it has been exciting for the Birches to be able to introduce more diverse rotations. They’ve been able to use Modes of Action which have never been used before.
  • 9:48 Soil amelioration  – liming has been a really beneficial tool for Catalina Farms. They also put out pot ash and gypsum. Deep ripping has also been a great tool to remove the compaction layer.
  • 11:29 Big 6 benefits  – controlling weeds is such an important strategy at Catalina Farms. Rod Birch said “We’ll never have a ceasefire on the war on weeds!”.


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