A determination not to let weeds dictate the profitability of his farming operation has prompted central western NSW grain grower Chris Roche to adopt non-chemical control options to combat problem species like annual ryegrass and black oats.
A study trip to Western Australia two years ago convinced him that windrow burning would help manage weeds on a long term basis within his existing winter/summer crop rotation program.
Since then, Mr Roche has introduced an integrated weed management program incorporating windrow burning for weed seed control and strategic chemical applications, and the strategy is proving a success.
Mr Roche farms 3200 hectares in the Gulargambone district, producing wheat, barley, canola, lupins and chickpeas on a mix of red kurrajong and heavy myall basalt soils.
He has windrow burnt stubble from all crops except chickpeas post-harvest and pays careful attention to burn management to achieve an effective slow, hot burn.
While weeds have always been carefully managed within the Roche’s cultivation country, an increasing reliance on zero till and continuous cropping combined with concerns over herbicide resistance prompted Mr Roche to look for non-chemical control alternatives.
“You can’t just use chemicals, you really have to use something else to control your weeds. Essentially anything that survives a spray is an issue so stopping weed seeds from being viable for the following season is our ultimate goal,” Mr Roche said.
All weed control decisions are made within the context of the wider farming system with full consideration given to the implications of any practice for control efficacy, planting opportunities and crop yield potential.
“Weeds create so many issues within a farming system – they cost yield, can force you to miss planting opportunities and can be extremely costly to control due to resistance issues - and this can force you to move to a less economic rotation,” Mr Roche said.
“We have learned through experience that breakouts can happen extremely quickly, even within a year, but the introduction of windrow burning has helped us turn that situation around.
“Although our farming country is fairly clean, we aren’t complacent as we are focussed on maintaining a profitable cropping rotation and want to keep as many control options open as possible.
“It’s really important that weeds don’t make decisions for us within our operation.”
More information on weed control practices is available at www.grdc.com.au/Resources/IWM-mini-manual.
Caption: Chris Roche, Gulargambone, says windrow burning is a cost-effective way to control weed seeds present at harvest.
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications