Tramlines trap weed seeds

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Image of Peter Bach
Peter Bach with his Claas Lexion 760 header, which is equipped with a Shelbourne stripper front and an EMAR chaff deck. PHOTO: Cindy Benjamin

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Growers: Peter and Kylie Bach, Kurilda Ag
Location: Pittsworth, Queensland
Area cropped: 1000 hectares
Crops: (winter) barley; (summer) sorghum, mungbeans, corn, occasionally sunflowers
Soil types: mainly black clay
Annual average rainfall: 600 millimetres
Soil pH: 8.2

Darling Downs grower Peter Bach runs a well-stocked weed control toolbox, with strategies for both ends of the season. He has equipped his Claas Lexion 760 header with a Shelbourne stripper front and an EMAR chaff deck for a two-pronged attack on weed seed germination.

Farming conditions at the Bachs’ 1000-hectare farm near Pittsworth favour a range of crops but also present challenges from a variety of weeds, including Johnson grass, fleabane, increasingly feathertop Rhodes grass and common sowthistle (which is presenting resistance to glyphosate).

Peter crops 100 per cent of the farm in summer. He uses a disc seeder to plant mungbeans six weeks after barley is harvested, which has no problems cutting through the standing straw left by the stripper front.

“Since introducing the stripper front three years ago we have also gained harvest efficiencies,” Peter says. “Our ground speed is two-to-three kilometres faster than the draper front and we are using less fuel as the header only runs at 50 per cent power as it is not processing straw.”

The chaff decks are another recent addition, inspired by Peter’s visit to WA. “We look to what WA growers are doing to manage herbicide resistance as the problems they face now we will probably face in five years if we are not proactive.”

He installed the chaff decks two years ago and has observed a reduction in weeds, especially Johnson grass in weedier paddocks. The chaff decks capture the chaff fraction from the header and channel it onto the tram tracks in Peter’s 12-metre controlled-traffic system.

“We run a bigger nozzle over the tramlines when spraying to target weed seeds,” Peter says.

The chaff tramlines eventually turn into a mulched consistency which, combined with compaction on the tramlines, inhibits weed seed germination. Chaff tramlining can reduce dust during summer spraying, which improves leaf herbicide contact. Peter says the lines also help retain water in the paddock during heavy storm events, rather than the wheel tracks channelling it away.

“Diverting chaff to the tramlines is a no-brainer for us and it has easily paid for itself in two years as we now know where the weed seeds are,” he says.