Herbicide helping Wimmera farmer win war on weeds

By rotating in-crop
herbicides, running sheep and making hay, Alan Hewitt and sons Tom and Gordon
are keeping the weed pressure low at their 3000ha crop and sheep operation at
Warracknabeal.

“The livestock
and hay cutting keeps things under control, as well as using different herbicide
modes of action (MOA),” Mr Hewitt said.

“Tom went on a
training course with GRDC recently, seeing the different pressures on
Australian farmers, and said we were lucky in terms of resistant weeds.

“So give us five
to 10 years and we’ll need to adopt more integrated weed management methods.”

Mr Hewitt said
one of the most effective ways to control problem plants was to use multiple
herbicide MOA, but due to their use of Clearfield barley and wheat varieties,
they had to be mindful of their canola choice.

“We have used
Clearfield canola in the past but the trouble for us now is we use Clearfield
barley and wheat varieties, and don’t want to become reliant on group B chemicals
and develop resistance,” he said.

Mr Hewitt has
been planting open pollinated canola variety ATR Bonito for a number of
seasons, as it is triazine tolerant (TT), but the mainstay cultivar was put to
the test last season when he seeded a hybrid TT variety.

“We work closely
with our agronomist and he suggested Hyola 559TT.

“Since we were
coming off a bad year and had to keep costs down, we decided to put in 10ha as
a trial run.”

The canola was
planted 35km northeast of the home property at Peppers Plains, where weeds are
particularly robust.

“It’s the country
where we need to reduce the ryegrass and brome grass population.

“In the paddocks
coming out of beans and vetch, we can use canola and really hammer those
weeds.”

The family’s
program consists of 1400ha of barley, 280ha of faba beans, 160ha of canola,
160ha of vetch, 160ha of wheat, 130ha of lentils and 50ha of field peas. They sow the vetch and beans first, then move
to barley, followed by canola and wheat.

“We sow early
every year now, so the canola was in on April 24. It was dry sown – no rain whatsoever at that
stage. Once upon a time we sowed in
May.”

Using minimum
till methods, they used a knife edge point with small wing, 305mm spacing with
press wheels and a rate of 2.5kg/ha.

“The only time we
disturb the soil is when we sow. Our
soils are clay, so I make a bit of a seed bed.”

A fall of 15mm on
May 15 helped it establish and 35mm of rain on June 15 furthered the growth. After that, the tap turned off.

“The year started
to go pear-shaped after that. We had
virtually no rain from August to harvest in mid-November. All up was about 160mm of growing season
rainfall.”

Mr Hewitt said
the Hyola 559TT had everything stacked against it but still performed well.

“The hybrid was
planted on the heavier, self-mulching clay soil near the fence line.

“As you move away
from the fence, the soil type moves to loam.
It was very surprising how it did go with minimal rainfall.

“The 559 got out
of the ground fairly similar to Bonito, but as time went on, it looked better
when it came to flowering.”

His Hyola 559TT
yielded 1.318 tonnes per hectare and ATR Bonito yielded 1.009t/ha.

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