Those perennial farm problems — weeds and the cost of controlling them — are about to come under sustained scientific attack in the north.
Research totalling $1 million over five years is getting underway with a core project called Development and promotion of integrated weed management systems for the northern grains region.
GRDC Northern Panel member Merv Olsen says the project is bringing together weeds scientists from NSW Agriculture, the University of New England and Queensland's Department of Primary Industries.
The core project has five directions:
- adoption of selective spray-topping for enhanced wild oat control;
- monitoring weed populations in long-term tillage rotation experiments;
- on-farm monitoring of weed management practices;
- development of integrated weed management systems for chickpeas; and
- reducing the reliance on herbicides in winter cereal farming systems.
Mr Olsen says integrated weed management is an essential step in the quest for sustainable farming systems, which northern growers identify as the industry's top priority for research.
"On average, weed control accounts for some 30 per cent of variable costs of grain production, and farmers are increasingly relying on herbicides to do the job under the minimum or zero-till farming systems considered to be essential to long-term sustainabiltty," he said. But there are concerns about the repeated controls needed to treat escapes and successive waves of emerging weeds."
''Increased herbicide use also raises the potential for contamination of produce, human health risks, degradation of soil due to herbicide residues, contamination of runoff and groundwater and other off-target environmental side effects," said Mr Olsen.
"The overall objective is a 10 per cent reduction in weed control costs on northern region grain farms by the year 2010." he said.
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