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Wild Radish a Key Concern for Northern Growers

06 September 2011

AUSTRALIA - Management of weeds, particularly wild radish, is topping the list of agronomic concerns for growers in Western Australia's northern grainbelt.

This was the message heard by members of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western panel during their recent spring tour of the region.

Lupin research, non-wetting soils and more targeted use of inputs were also priorities raised by growers when they spoke with panel members including deputy chairman Mike Ewing, Paul Kelly, Narelle Moore, Darren Hughes and Vince Logan.

Panellists met with hundreds of growers, consultants and agronomists during their tour of farming districts including Geraldton, Binnu, Chapman Valley, Mullewa, Morawa, Mingenew and Dongara.

Professor Ewing said the tour was one of three separate spring tours of the WA grainbelt by western panel members in 2011, with the aim being for panellists to improve two-way communication with growers and other stakeholders.

At the DAFWA research site near Mullewa, GRDC western panellist Narelle Moore is flanked by Christine Zaicou-Kunesch, left, of the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), Geraldton, and Kylie Rowe, producer and contact for the Mullewa Dryland Farmers Initiative.

Western panel members will tour the WA grainbelt’s central and southern regions next week, from September 12.

Professor Ewing said panellists who toured the northern grainbelt last week would continue their association with the region to get ongoing feedback about the specific issues facing local growers.

“The GRDC will use this information to update its investment priorities which determine how money – sourced from the grower levy and the Federal Government - is invested into new research,” he said.

“Growers we met were very positive about the establishment of new GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions (RCS) networks in WA, which will enhance the GRDC’s ability to identify and prioritise local production issues.”

Professor Ewing said various aspects of weed management were top of mind for northern growers consulted during the spring tour.

“Growers are very interested in seeding their crops as early as possible to exploit the potential of the season, and this means an increasing proportion of crops are being dry seeded before opening rains are received,” he said.

“While this strategy is being used to maximise potential yields, it is also leading to increased pressure on the robustness of weed control strategies.”

Professor Ewing said that due to its biology and ability to persist, wild radish was the weed of greatest concern to growers in the region.

“Growers are being left with narrowing options to control this serious weed due to herbicide resistance, with some chemical groups no longer effective against it,” he said.

Professor Ewing said many northern growers were excited at the weed management potential offered by new competitive wheat lines which had been developed with GRDC funding support in a project based at The University of Adelaide.

“Testing of pre-commercial lines in the northern region has given an important insight into the potential offered by this novel approach to weed management,” he said.

Professor Ewing said growers stressed that they wanted strong investment into lupin breeding and agronomy, with the pulse crop remaining a cornerstone of their farming systems.

Growers also wanted guidance on how to best match inputs to seasonal conditions.

“They want to know how to reduce losses and manage risks in poorer years, by better managing inputs,” Professor Ewing said.

“They also want to use increased inputs in a more accurate and targeted way in wetter years.

“Growers need more guidance about how they can do that quantitatively, recognising that variation in factors such as soil type, sowing time and commodity prices increase the complexity of these decisions.

“There are also gains to be made from using paddock mapping and variable rate technology (VRT).”

Professor Ewing said non-wetting soils were an expanding issue in the region.

“To address the problem, many growers are using major cultivation interventions – such as soil inversion and spading – at a farm-scale experimental level,” he said.

“Growers are also looking to finetune traditional techniques used for furrow sowing to get better results from non-wetting soils.”

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