Weed control maximises crop return

BATTLING annual ryegrass is an ever-evolving process for Marchagee farmer Mick Callaghan.

Herbicides that were once effective in controlling weeds on the family farm for Mick’s parents, Molly and Bevan, have become futile over time due to resistance.

Bayer commercial sales representative Ian Cook (left), Marchagee grower Mick Callaghan and Landmark Coorow agronomist Andy Regan.

Bayer commercial sales representative Ian Cook (left), Marchagee grower Mick Callaghan and Landmark Coorow agronomist Andy Regan.

It has meant Mr Callaghan has had to become more vigilant when it comes to rotating chemicals and fighting resistance, as effective weed control is essential to maximising profit.

The property is farmed by Mr Callaghan and his wife Julia as a total cropping enterprise using a minimum tillage system on predominately sandy soils.

The farm is near Coorow and receives an annual average rainfall of 350 millimetres, including 250-280mm during the growing season.

Last year they cropped 7300 hectares and the program typically comprises 40 per cent wheat, 20pc canola, 20pc barley and 20pc lupins.

Mr Callaghan has been farming full-time since 1992 after a near 10-year stint working fly-in, fly-out at Argyle Diamond Mine and working on the farm during his rostered weeks off.

He said wild radish and annual ryegrass were the biggest weed burdens, followed by brome grass, and over the years resistance to traditionally effective chemicals had become extremley obvious.

“As little as 10 years ago, we were using clethodim at what was considered a high rate of 200 millimetres per hectare and now, 1L/ha of the same product has no effect,” Mr Callaghan said.

“We’ve got to do anything we can to protect new chemicals that effectively control weeds like ryegrass and radish.”

Mr Callaghan takes a keen interest in any trial work on resistance and new herbicides, particularly those done by independent farm groups such as the Liebe Group and West Midlands Group.

It was a trial that first introduced him to the pre-emergent herbicide, Sakura 850 WG from Bayer, when he visited a small trial on a privately-owned farm north of Coorow facilitated by the company’s customer advisory representative, Rick Horbury.

The same herbicide was also recommended by Mr Callaghan’s agronomist, Craig Topham from Agrarian Management, Geraldton.

“I went and had a look and spoke to the farmer who ran the trial,” Mr Callaghan said.

“It was good to hear his feedback and he swore by it and that it effectively controlled annual ryegrass.

“I’m someone that has to see a product in action before I believe it works, rather than just reading literature, which is why I like to look at independent trials.

“The main thing that stood out with Sakura was its flexibility.

“Sakura can wash off the straw and into the soil, which is a big advantage.”