Pleasing early signs of low weed burden in SA crops

HITTING TARGETS: Patrick Neal says he is well on-track with his seeding program and expects to start post-emergent spraying by mid-June at his Ngapala property in the Mid North.
HITTING TARGETS: Patrick Neal says he is well on-track with his seeding program and expects to start post-emergent spraying by mid-June at his Ngapala property in the Mid North.

Seeding has been in full swing this week across most districts with some good signs despite what may be considered a late start by some.

Agronomists and farmers in the South East, the Mid North and on the Strathalbyn Plains say, generally, most seeding programs are well past halfway and post-emergent spraying can be expected to begin in early to mid-June.

FPAG Strathalbyn agronomist Nick Thring said earlier this week there had been a fair few knockdowns going on across the region and things were very much in full swing.

Looking across the Strathalbyn Plains, Finniss and Langhorne Creek areas, Mr Thring said there had been a reasonable start to the season.

"It's pretty good now - we had 30 millimetres to 40mm in that last front that came through and while we didn't get a lot out of this latest one (across Sunday and Monday) and you wouldn't say that was a good follow up, it's not a bad start given the soils are still reasonably warm," Mr Thring said.

Farmers in the area are putting in canola and pulses, having sown bean and lupin crops in the past couple of weeks.

"I expect by late this week they will be on to the cereals and mid-June will be about the time for post-emergent sprays.

"The crops that have been put in have emerged reasonably quickly.

"Some of the guys who have sown some canola and lupins have had them in for seven days and they've popped up. They've been pretty quick."

Mr Thring said the lighter soils had germinated well while heavier soils were taking a bit longer as they took some time to get wet.

"Generally speaking though, in the Finniss area we're going to get a half decent knockdown anyway. The knockdowns are going to be better than last year at the very least.

"I don't think they've got too much to be worried about. We're positioned in not too bad a spot. In terms of timing it is only May 20 so we're not late by any stretch.

"I think we can be set up quite well if the season does the right thing at the end."

I expect by late this week they will be on to the cereals and mid-June will be about the time for post-emergent sprays.


At Ngapala in the Mid North, Patrick Neal was more than halfway through his seeding program for 1300 hectares at the beginning of the week.

"We're sowing wheat at the moment and have sown canola, beans and hay, with just some more wheat and barley to sow," he said.

"The crops are just starting to emerge at the moment so we're still putting out the pre-emergents to stop those weeds coming up and we'll start our post-emergents program probably in June, or thereabouts.

"We don't anticipate it's going to be a lot different to normal. We manage our weeds as much as we can through our cropping rotation and with the use of pre-emergents.

"Generally, we'll assess it as we go on a paddock-by-paddock basis but we don't anticipate our weed burden to be a lot different to other years. We've had reasonable weed control over the last couple of years."

Mr Neal said controlling ryegrass in his break crops was the most important challenge and while there were a few grasses in the cereal crops it was generally broadleaf control in cereal crops he had to consider.

"With the 2,4-D label changes, we've just got to make sure we've got the right nozzles later in the season to apply that and also monitor the inversion conditions, but that comes spring time.

"There's been some label changes with 2,4-D (to reduce risk of spray drift) so you've got to be using the very coarse nozzles and then just not spraying in inversion conditions, which we try not to do anyway."

Elders Naracoorte's Jason McClure says most graingrowers are in the middle of seeding wheat in his region this week.

"We only got a break on May 8, so some people started sowing in dry but most started after that. We didn't have a lot of knockdown and while we had 10mm of rain overnight on Sunday and we'd like some follow up rains to help activate those pre-emergent herbicides."

He said post-emergent spraying near Naracoorte was expected to begin in the first week of June.

Weather tool will be a help

The Mid North Mesonet pilot project, funded by PIRSA and being delivered by the Ag Excellence Alliance, will bring timely assistance to Ngapala crop grower Patrick Neal and his neighbours.

The $1.4-million state-of-the-art automatic weather station network across the Mid North, northern Adelaide Plains and northern Yorke Peninsula will deliver a weather monitoring and warning system sufficient to provide highly accurate and targeted data on the development and presence of adverse conditions for spraying.

The occurrence of crop damage resulting from spray drift has been an issue in the Mid North region for many years. The extensive telemetry of the network will give spray applicators accurate local weather information to reduce the risk of spray drift caused by inversions.

"They're installing the Mid North Mesonet network, which they're rolling out at the moment, so that will be in place to help us monitor the conditions by spring," Mr Neal said.

"We're going to have the ability to monitor the conditions better with this new network of weather monitoring so that ensures we're going to be spraying in the right weather conditions."

And Mr Neal says other technological improvements are also helping to make spraying more efficient.

"Sprayers have got better and nozzles are improving so we can make sure we have got the right droplet size on and we get the spray on the target," he said.

"Spray machinery also is always improving. Having things like the auto level on the boom helps to ensure that we do get the spray on the target.

"We're not spraying any less, it's just making sure that the spray that we put out is doing a good job. We need to make sure, for weed resistance also, that we're getting the right rate on the target so that we get the right result."