Make yours a hot chickpea harvest

Date: 05 Nov 2015

Windrow burning

This season’s larger than normal chickpea plant on the back of a buoyant international market is posing an ideal opportunity for growers to successfully implement a non–chemical harvest weed seed control tactic.

Narrow windrow burning is a simple, low cost way of destroying weed seeds after harvest by placing crop residue in a narrow windrow during harvest and then burning it.

Maurie Street, chief executive officer of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded grower solution group Grain Orana Alliance (GOA) says lighter yielding cereal crops or break crops such as chickpeas are ideal crops for those growers looking to initiate windrow burning.

“Windrow burning can be an intimidating idea, but I believe chickpea harvest is an opportunity not to be missed,” Mr Street said

“It is the least competitive crop in terms of competiveness with weeds and has limited weed control options so it is a crop you will potentially see more weed escapes in.

“Also, it’s a very short crop so when harvesting chickpeas you will have your header comb low anyway, unlike a wheat crop where you might need to drop the header down to capture the weeds. Therefore it won’t slow you down.

“I like to call it a free spin of the weed control wheel.”

Given that chickpeas leave a low volume of residue, Mr Street says there is little chance the windrow burn will escape, and means growers can burn earlier due to a greater propensity for control.

He says if growers meticulously plan for its use well before striking a match, its role as an effective harvest weed seed control tactic cannot be underestimated.

“In Western Australia, the practice has been widely adopted in response to widespread herbicide resistance, often to multiple herbicide groups and has proven successful in reducing key weeds such as annual ryegrass and wild radish,” he said.

“There is no reason to doubt its effectiveness on those same weeds in our northern cropping systems and the beauty of narrow windrow burning is it allows us to maintain our current systems with little change while having significant effects on the development of resistance.”

Chickpea harvest is an ideal time to trial windrow burning in the northern region.

Mr Street says the use of non-chemical control tools such as windrow burning within farming systems, can extend the life of herbicides on-farm.

“Continued reliance on herbicides alone is not sustainable in our continuous cropping systems. Simply rotating herbicides will not prevent the development of resistance,” he said.

“What is required is a complete shift in the way we think about weed management, which does have implications on other areas of farm management such a labour.”

Many farming systems in central and northern New South Wales have evolved to be based on continuous cropping and zero tillage. With little grazing of pasture leys or winter fodder crops and no burning or regular cultivation, there is increasing pressure on herbicides, particularly those used in-crop.

“Concurrently, there has been a reduction in sowing rates and increases in row spacing, resulting in less crop competition for weeds,” he said.

“Additionally, the planting of less competitive crops such as chickpeas and the increased frequency of early sowing through moisture seeking techniques or dry sowings have placed further pressure on in-crop and pre-emergent herbicides.

“We need to prolong the usefulness of these herbicides and the best way to achieve this is to prevent any seed set from the survivors of herbicide application.

“Harvest weed seed management won’t replace herbicides, but works alongside them.”

There are three main non-chemical options for managing weed escapes at harvest; chaff carts, the Harrington Seed Destructor and windrow burning.

“Windrow burning is the cheapest and easiest to set up which makes it attractive to most growers. It will allow growers to test the concept and check the fit for their farming system. Chaff carts, the Harrington Seed Destructor and the larger investments could be considered after “testing the water” with windrow burning.

For more information on windrow burning, view Maurie Street’s local experience on the GOA NSW YouTube channel, or download the narrow windrow burning manual for southern NSW from the resources section of the GRDC website .

You can also hear Maurie Street discuss chickpeas and windrow burning on GRDC Radio.

Contact Details 

For Interviews

Maurie Street, chief executive officer GOA
0400 066 201
maurie.street@grainorana.com.au

Contact

Ellen McNamara, Cox Inall Communications
0429 897 129
ellenm@coxinall.com.au

Region North