27 September 2023

Weed research program a gain for grain

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The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working on weed research which it hopes will boost grain production.

The Department is currently examining the biology of 10 emerging weed species in the Grainbelt that threaten crop productivity and profitability.

The research is part of a University of Adelaide-led project with co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Research Scientist at DPIRD, Catherine Borger (pictured with fellow researcher, Glen Riethmuller) said the work provided new information about the ecology of great brome, barley grass, doublegee, sowthistle, wireweed, windmill grass, roly poly, caltrop, Afghan melon and button grass.

“While most of these weeds have been around for more than 100 years, their impact has increased in the past 10 years or so, since the advent of minimum tillage farming systems, herbicide resistance, continuous cropping and a changing climate,” Dr Borger said.

“This project aims to generate a better understanding of the seed bank biology of these weeds, including seed dormancy, seed bank persistence, the timing of seed shedding and competitiveness within crops.”

She said this knowledge would help develop integrated weed management strategies that growers could then tailor to their farming system to increase yields.

“It could also reduce control costs and contamination, which can impact on market access,” Dr Borger said.

She said five years of research showed that a changing climate was having a significant influence on the emergence of the weeds.

“The research shows both winter-spring and summer weeds can germinate in late winter and spring, given adequate moisture, and that increasing November rainfall results in summer weed emergence,” Dr Borger said.

“It is clear the management of both winter and summer weeds in November is becoming an issue, which could be challenging as there are few herbicide options available in mature crops prior to harvest,” she said.

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