Cleaning up oats

Wagin, WA, oat growers David (left) and Nathan Walker, Weed control and cleaner grain are high on the agenda for the industry.

By answering some of oat growers' most weedy questions, current research is promoting cleaner and more profitable oat grain and hay production.

Data on weed control options, herbicide use, weed densities and associated yield losses will help oat growers clear some of their major hurdles to improved profitability. Research supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC has already provided some significant herbicide data, in particular with the largely successful use of trifluralin in oat crops.

Until recently, standards of weed control and contamination levels in oats have been less than for other crops. However, the milling oat industry is now requiring cleaner grain, and hay exporters want less weed contamination.

The incentive for growers is that returns are improving as new milling varieties begin to approach the yields of the dwarf feed types.

In the better rainfall districts, grain yields of 4 t/ha are not uncommon (providing comparable dollar returns to 3 t/ha wheat crops), while 5-7 t/ha hay crops are netting growers $550-$770/ha (these figures from WA — Ed.).

Along with their rotational benefits, such as low disease and frost risk, and their inherently higher tolerance to waterlogging, oats have a profitable place on many farms, especially those in higher-rainfall areas.

Systems with low herbicide-resistance risk top the list of research priorities with mixes including Trifluralin, Diuron, Dual and Stomp seen as a major part of reducing that risk.

Reasonably inexpensive mixes of Glean and Diuron have worked well in controlling ryegrass, the main weed problem in oats. However, declines in hay production and the development of herbicide resistance through the presence of a Group B herbicide (sulfonylurea) have been downsides of this approach.

How competitive ryegrass gets with oats is another key question to developing economical strategies.

Program 2.3.3 Contact: Mr Pierre Fievez 08 9385 6655