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3 Things You’ll Lose If You Don’t Manage Your Weeds NOW!

By K-Line Ag
Published on

This year has been crippling. The drought has stressed farmers, crops, animals, feed supplies, rural communities and the entire agriculture industry in Australia. It’s been called the “worst drought in living memory[1]” by more than one media outlet, and there’s been little to disprove the idea. While farmers are dealing with the implications of the drought itself, they need to determine what these implications may be for their operations going forward. It’s important not to lose sight of the long-term impacts of this drought on your paddocks.

Weed Management in Drought

In addition to numerous aspects of agriculture stressed by drought, soil stress is a less noticeable but incredibly important issue. It’s also one farmers will do well to address as quickly and conscientiously as they do the other parts of their operation. This is because stressed soils are more susceptible to environmental damage and weed overgrowth. Neglecting these soils can lead to losses in three pivotal and long-lasting areas of crop production and weed management during drought: nitrogen, moisture and money.

Nitrogen

After a drought, the nitrogen content of soil can vary wildly, even within the paddock. Because of the variable moisture from the drought year, the uptake ability of crops can leave pockets of richer soil. At the same time, lack of downward water movement means any previously-applied additives can accumulate residually in the soil at higher levels than normal[2]. Conversely, areas with high weed growth during the drought can create nitrogen deficiencies along with high levels of weed seed banking within the soil.

Managing these variances can be tricky. A good rule of thumb when replanting or planning additives for soils following a drought is to thoroughly soil test throughout the paddock, as pockets of residual chemicals can exist. These pockets develop as a residual of the previous years’ crop and weed growth. A larger sampling of soils can help identify the areas with higher nitrogen concentrations or weed-depleted deficiencies. Minimising application in high concentration areas can help alleviate over-application, run off, and other issues, while heavier application in depleted areas can help rebalance the overall growing ability of the paddock.

Moisture

Water is Australia’s most precious resource – don’t waste it on weeds! Root zone soil moisture is deficient across the majority of Australia[3]. Deep-rooted vegetation, like trees, can access subsurface moisture down to about 6 meters. Crops don’t have that luxury, so doing everything possible to protect and maintain moisture at shallower levels will be imperative. Without accessible moisture reserves, crops are one ill-timed rainfall away from desiccation. Because of this, managing weed competition within the paddock is critical.

In addition to root zone inaccessibility, lack of moisture also impacts the action of some types of herbicides. Dry conditions can cause plants to build wax layers as a defense mechanism, making them less susceptible to herbicides. In this case, forgoing herbicide application or supplementing it with mechanical forms of weed control, like tillage, is an option. This helps manage weed seedbanks and keeps them from competing with crops for already scarce moisture resources.

Read More: BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING HERBICIDE-RESISTANT WEEDS

Money

Adequate management of these first steps makes a big difference in how much the third step – money – impacts your operation. Farmers are always looking for ways to cut operational costs, and especially during times of drought. Understanding the interplay between nitrogen, soil moisture, mechanical interventions, and cash outlay can help producers redeploy their financial resources, rather than looking for ways to cut them completely. With the steps listed above, producers can minimise the need to purchase chemical additives, instead relying on tillage equipment to manage weeds until your soil moisture levels return to a more normal state.

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6 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Buying a Compact Disc

By K-Line Ag
Published on

In the tillage equipment industry, there are lots of options for farmers. And because tillage equipment is an investment that impacts the rest of their operation, farmers tend to do a lot of research before they make a purchase. This is a good thing! We talk to farmers every day about equipment specs, field applications, design, and a thousand other topics. We want the farmers we talk with to have the best information possible about our equipment and the competitive tillage equipment market, so they can feel confident when they make the decision to buy from K-Line Ag.

But we also hear a lot of stories from farmers who switch to K-Line Ag from other tiller lines. Inevitably, they start the conversation with “I wish I’d have known…” So, we’ve gathered the wisdom of thousands of farmer-driven conversations into this single resource, this “I wish I would have known…” guide to buying a compact disc.

1. Ask for a Field Demo

It’s easy to talk the talk, but you want a machine that will do what the salespeople tell you it will do. That said, ask for a field demo before you buy. Run it through its paces. See it on the ground, doing the things it’s supposed to do. Watch for bounce. Watch for stubble incorporation. Look for clumping. Test disc penetration depths. And trust your gut. If the marketing doesn’t match the performance, look elsewhere.

2. Think About Transport Width

Tillage machines are getting bigger and heavier in response to the increased use and availability of high-horsepower tractors. But while it’s good to have a wide footprint in the paddock, don’t forget that implement needs to have nice road manners – crossing bridges, meeting traffic, and ducking overheads without hogging the road. We’ve heard of way too many farmers who forgot about machine dimensions when purchasing their tillage equipment, and found the machine was too wide to access certain paddocks, or cross bridges on country roads. Talk about buyers’ remorse!

3. Focus on Functionality

Nothing on a farm is ever static, even the paddocks. Conditions are constantly changing, crops are in rotation, and the weather can make a nice easy field into a sticky mess in no time flat. Having a tillage machine that gives you the ability to maintain function across changing field conditions is essential. This is one of the top decision-makers for many farmers who choose a K-Line Ag Speedtiller®. The farmer-driven design of our DUAL MODE OPERATION means operators can control disc depth, addressing issues of ground penetration, eliminating machine bounce, and varying roller packing as needed.

4. Go for a Versatility and Efficiency Double Whammy

You’re buying a compact disc because you’re looking for versatility in your paddocks and efficiency in your entire operation. To make sure you’re getting the most machine for the money, make sure it’s able to check all the boxes:

  • Weed Control

    The discing action has to be sufficient to disrupt weed germination cycles, expose weed roots, and help manage weeds in combination with your chosen herbicide plan
  • Stubble Incorporation

    The discs should effectively size and distribute crop residues across the machine’s footprint and into the top layers of soil
  • Fertilizer or Manure Incorporation

    The disc can effectively handle and disseminate spread fertilizers, and can size and distribute broadcasted manure applications evenly and without clumping
  • Single-pass Finishing

    The finishing roller gang needs to create a seedbed ready to seed into. It should both smooth the disruptions produced by the discs, and prepare the soil adequately for immediate direct seeding.

If a machine doesn’t have satisfactory performance on these key features, it means you’re sacrificing either versatility or efficiency – or both!

5. Minimise Maintenance

Maintenance on tillage equipment isn’t usually a main buying consideration, but there’s a definite cost of ownership involved with machinery, and a compact disc is no exception. Servicing bearings and replacing discs constitute most of the time and expense. Choosing a piece of equipment that maximises your usable hours while minimising your maintenance windows can create noticeable efficiency improvements for time-sensitive tillage work.

Bearing breakdown, either due to broken seals or worn components, can stop a machine in its tracks. K-Line Ag discs feature a labyrinth-style, multi-seal bearing housing designed to be “bulletproof” in strenuous field conditions. It is the heaviest designed bearing on the market, which allows the machine to work longer between scheduled maintenance stops.

The same extended working time is the driving force behind K-Line’s large 24” discs. These discs provide an added 4” of wear, allowing for more time in the paddock and less time in the shed changing discs.

6. Don’t Settle for What’s on the Surface

Just like you look under the bonnet of anything with an engine, it’s a good idea to look under the soil’s surface to judge the performance of a compact disc. Agronomists warn tillage users to be wary of below-surface ridging. This is where misaligned disc blades can bypass lines of soil and create strips of compaction below the soil.

In order to get better control of your sub-soil quality and combat subsurface compaction, K-Line Ag has designed a QUICK-ADJUST LATERAL DISC POSITIONING system. This lets operators quickly and easily adjust the alignment between the disc gangs. This eliminates ridging, reduces disc wear, and eliminates bounce on planting and seeding equipment.

While you can’t know everything there is to know about compact discs, it’s good to have some insight into the questions to ask and the product differentiators to look for. You’ll end up a happier, better informed buyer in the long run.

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A Bright Outlook for Australia’s Agricultural Industry

By K-Line Ag
Published on

All of our agricultural equipment at K-Line Ag, is designed to meet the needs of the farmer. That’s why our tagline is ‘Sustaining farms to sustain the world!’ The equipment we produce is built to improve farming efficiency for the progressive farmer across the globe.

The collective effort of the sector has resulted in a very positive outlook for the years ahead. According to the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), people who depend on the industry have a lot to look forward to!

Important to the GDP

Agriculture makes a huge contribution to Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for over 12% of the GDP and employing over 325,000 people. A staggering 61% of Australia’s landmass is dedicated to agricultural operations.

Expecting a Record This Year

According to ABARES, it’s another year to set records. Exports from the industry are expected to reach an all-time high of $48.7 billion for the year 2016-2017. This represents an increase of $1 billion on the previous year. The government agency is confident that the numbers for 2017-2018 will rise comfortably above the five-year average.

Winners: Wheat and Barley

Cereal production is expected to achieve the biggest growth. ABARES estimates an impressive increase of 20% in 2017. However, production might face a challenge in the global market. As supplies rise, the price of these grains is expected to remain low.

Predictions with Precautions

The report comes with a warning to all. The tensions between global superpowers such as China and the United States can have a significant impact on global trade. In addition, China’s growth rates create the potential for unpredictable movements in the industry.

Many analysts agree about the important role of technology in developing Australian agricultural methods. At K-Line Ag, we continue to help Australia’s agriculture industry grow securely and become a global leader.

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Best Practices for Managing Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Tillage season is just around the corner, and already producers are turning their thoughts to weeds. Australian broadacre crop paddocks are increasingly encountering greater and greater numbers of herbicide-resistant weeds, leading farmers to explore a variety of methods for mitigating and minimising weed occurrences.

Australian producers are not alone in their concern in the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. An article in the Weed Science[1] academic journal featuring contributors from Australia and the United States outlined a set of twelve weed management best practices for containing and controlling weeds while simultaneously managing their opportunity for building herbicide resistance.

12 Weed Management Best Practices:

  • 1

    Understand the biology of weeds present in the field location
  • 2

    Use a diversified approach toward weed management, focusing on preventing weed seed production and reducing weed seeds in the soil’s seed bank

  • 3

    Plant to weed-free fields, keeping fields as weed-free as possible

  • 4

    Plant weed-free seed

  • 5

    Scout fields routinely
  • 6

    Use multiple herbicide mechanisms of action (MOAs) that are effective against the most troublesome weeds present, or those most prone to herbicide resistance
  • 7

    Apply herbicide at label-recommended rate and appropriate weed size
  • 8

    Emphasize cultural practices that suppress weeds by using crop competitiveness
  • 9

    Use mechanical and biological management practices when and where appropriate
  • 10

    Prevent field-to-field and intra-field transfer of weed seeds or vegetative propagules
  • 11

    Manage weed seed at harvest and post-harvest to minimise a build-up of the weed seed bank
  • 12

    Manage paddock boundaries to prevent an influx of weeds

Many Australian producers utilise some of these practices, but as the pressure from herbicide-resistant weeds grows, integrating more of them into their farm’s standard practices could make the difference when finding the balance between long-term control of weeds and combating herbicide-resistance.

Understanding mechanisms of action and utilising a variety of non-herbicide mechanical and biological practices were emphasized in the study. Pre-emergent herbicides are popular for broadacre applications because they impede germination of weed seeds that already exist in the seed bed by inhibiting the generation of growth enzymes. But they’re not appropriate for every weed type, thus the need for identifying the weeds present in the paddock at the middle to end of the previous growing season and choosing the mechanism of action that works best for those weeds present.

Similarly, mechanical means of lifecycle disruption, like employing strategic tillage with specialized tillage equipment at key points in the weed’s growth and development, can prevent the propagation and expansion of weeds. But like many of the best practices listed by the Weed Science study, it functions best when implemented in concert with things like regular scouting of fields and hygiene processes for inter-field equipment transfers. Implements like the Speedtiller®, which are designed for weed control and ease of use in field hygiene actions, can be a good long-term tillage equipment investment, interrupting weed propagation cycles and promoting weed-free seed beds in your paddocks.

As the agriculturists and biologists in the Weed Science study pointed out, none of these actions are completely effective on their own. For long-term effectiveness, producers will have to develop operation-wide processes and strategies for managing their weed challenges.

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Bouncing Back: Cultivating Hay Crops During the Decimation of Drought

By K-Line Ag
Published on

It’s been a difficult year for farmers across eastern Australia, with widespread drought conditions withering crops, drying up reservoirs, and cracking soils. Recent rains have helped provide some relief, but not enough to negate a long season of missing moisture.

The DPI’s Combined Drought Indicator is currently showing that 99.6% of NSW is affected by drought. 16.7% of this is intense drought, and 49% as drought – meaning well over 65% of our state is desperate for a drink!

The drought has been especially difficult on hay crop reserves in New South Wales. Livestock farmers have emptied their sheds and silage stores, and numerous relief convoys of hay from other parts of the country have been organised to feed sheep and cattle in NSW.

Need for Restocking

Restocking hay supplies will be a main focus for producers after the drought, particularly in northern Victoria, NSW and SA. Concentration in these areas will be largely lucerne-based forages, with some grassy pasture hays being produced in southern Victoria. However, lack of subsoil moisture, particularly in NSW, will make cultivated hay crops in the area thinner than normal. Since tonnage will be lower, ensuring the quality of hay crops through good harvest techniques will be critical.

Double up with ease

Raking hay will be a priority for processing the crop. Raking helps maintain the nutritious components (leaves and leaf stems) while accumulating the tonnage needed for baling and silage chopping. Because of the thinner crop, doubling up windrows to feed balers will be important. Moving hay that far without damaging the leaves is important, and it’s something the K-Line Ag Delta Hay Pro handles with ease.

Material-driven handling

The rubber reels are material driven. This means they turn solely on the volume of the hay being processed, not on the speed of the tractor or a power take-off. Material driven handling spins the reels slowly, which handles the hay gently and leaves the stems and rougher plant parts behind. This gentle rolling produces an airy windrow that better facilitates drying and maturation.

Besides leaving behind stems, the material-driven handling of the Delta Hay Pro also leaves behinds clods of surface soil and rocks. This means bales made with the Delta HayPro are excellent for contract hay sales and exportation.

Cart, stack and store

Most hay producers believe in and experienced the truth behind the saying “bad windrows make bad bales.” The Delta Hay Pro also provides fully adjustable windrow settings to accommodate varying baler styles. Width adjustments on windrows mean rows are the correct width for optimal baler pickup, producing bales that are square. This makes the bales easier to cart, stack, and store.

While farmers can’t reverse the devastating effects of the drought, they can employ smart, strategic production mechanisms to produce the best hay crops possible.

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Bringing Things in Line – Tramline or Controlled Traffic Farming

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Soil is the lifeblood of crop farmers. They spend countless hours monitoring it, applying the nutrients it needs to perform its best, building it up by increasing its organic matter, and decreasing its susceptibility to environmental threats like erosion.

One soil conservation practice that has risen in popularity with the advent of satellite-guided farming, precision agricultural practices, and auto-steer capabilities on tractors and implements is tramline or controlled traffic farming (CTF). With a CTF plan, farmers use mechanical means to design specific, consistently-utilised permanent wheel tracks that work for all tractors, harvesters, and implements through uniform wheel spacings and long-run rows across paddocks. These wheel tracks bear the weight of tractors and implements in the field, limiting soil compaction to a smaller percentage of the paddock, reducing the need for whole-field deep cultivation to combat compaction issues, and minimising erosion.

While not a new concept – the first idea of controlled traffic farming was explored in the 1850s with steam-powered machinery[1] – CTF has expanded greatly since the mid-70s, gaining new traction in the early 2000s as soil conservation practices became more mainstream. Popularity started in Europe, has spread throughout Australia, and is catching the interest of flatland farmers in the Great Plains and Midwestern regions of the United States. Australian research on CTF techniques includes over two decades of study.[2] Main benefits recorded over that time include:

  • Yield improvements

    for grains, yields have shown increases between 2-16%, with 10% as a common average. This has translated into an average profit of around $47/ha, with half resulting from improved yield (more production) and the other half from better grain quality.
  • Fuel savings

    efficiency on CTF systems comes not as much from the straight lines as from the decreased rolling resistance and wheel slips that comes from running in packed tramline tracks versus soft, loose soils. Fuel cost reductions in Australian research tests have ranged between 25-50%, dependent largely on soil type, with clay-type soils seeing higher savings percentages.
  • Improved soil health

    comes from a variety of sources, included less reliance on fertiliser additives, and from biological improvements in microbe and earthworm populations.

Changes to farm practices to incorporate CTF involve some challenges, with the biggest hurdles being related to planning and implementation.[3] Getting CTF to work with existing farm systems and practices, from physical barriers like terraces or contours to rotation programs, can be difficult. Challenges can include:

  • Difficulty controlling erosion on slopes or in grazed areas
  • Technical difficulties in controlling weeds in tramline/track areas
  • Rutting in tramlines
  • Standardisation/matching of wheel spacings across equipment types

Mechanical management of the tramlines and the equipment that utilises them is the biggest concern for most producers, and requires the most time, resources, and effort. Farm machinery in Australia comes in a variety of wheel set widths, from 9m on smaller harvesters and seeders to 36m on large boom sprayers. Standardising a producer’s entire line of equipment for CTF can be costly and time-consuming, particularly if the producer wants a quick changeover as opposed to a more gradual phase out and replace approach.

Similarly, managing the tramlines themselves can difficult. Tramlines left uncultivated can grow weeds that can spread into the main paddock crop. Similarly, the tramlines’ heavy use can wear ruts into the soil, sequestering moisture in their grooves or serving as an erosion-inducing sluice in wet weather.

K-Line Ag’s Trackattack® implement is designed to combat common tramline issues. With combined disc-roller implements dual-mounted in each wheel track, the Track Attack cuts through wheel tracks while loosening and redistributing soil for a smoother, flatter finish. This mechanical disruption eliminates weeds and ruts, improving the track and protecting paddocks from unwanted weeds or erosion. Available in two configurations, the Track Attack can renovate 2m or 3m tracks on a 3m centre width, or 2m, 3, or 4m tracks on a 4m centre width.

K-Line Ag’s Trackattack® has made the challenges of implementing CTF systems easier and more efficient for producers everywhere.

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Case Study: Adaptation & Innovation on the Carey’s Coolamon Property

By K-Line Ag
Published on
An appetite for continuous improvement drives innovation on the Carey’s Coolamon property, where Speedtillers have allowed them to retain moisture by leaving stubble residue in the ground.

“Like many mixed farmers who experienced the hardship of drought in the early 2000s, Mick Carey started to think seriously about how best to conserve moisture during that time.

In 2012, concerns about the amount of chemical required for a minimum till system led Mick and Brett to consider working the stubble into the ground… When researching possibilities, they came across the Speedtiller. They invited the rep to come out to their property and demonstrate the machine.

“We were immediately convinced,” Mick said.

Mick and Brett could see the potential of the machine [Speedtiller], and made up their mind the same day to buy it. Further discussions opened up the possibility of buying additional units and hiring them out, so they ended up buying four”

Read more

As part of FarmLink’s project on Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble, they have conducted a number of case studies on growers in the region, who have participated in the research to identify key issues in stubble retained farming systems. Mick and Brett Carey used their Speedtiller® to assist in this research examining the strategic use of tillage in conservation farming.

Click here to read the full FarmLink case study on the Carey Partnership’s farming operation at Oaklands, Coolamon NSW.

Source: FarmLink (www.farmlink.com.au)

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Chemical & Tillage: Waging a War for Weed Control

By K-Line Ag
Published on

4 Ways to Win the War on Weeds

Farmers are at war. They’re up against an enemy that’s increasingly sophisticated, highly adaptable, and capable of responding rapidly to the weapons deployed against them. It’s a war for moisture, for yields, and for revenues. It’s a war against chemically-resistant weeds, and it’s one farmers must use all their knowledge and resources to fight.

Don’t Limit Your Arsenal

You would never walk into a fight without the tools needed to win. The same concept applies to weed control. The decision to wage war against herbicide-resistant weeds doesn’t have to be an either/or chemical or tillage fight. It can be a chemical AND tillage fight. Farmers don’t have to pick one method, and a diversified strategy that utilises both can be extremely successful. They can work together, complementing each other, and bolstering each other’s weaknesses to make the overall fight more effective[1].

For instance, deploying chemicals against broadleaf-type weeds in autumn while combating grass-type weeds with tillage in spring is a great example of strategic, dual-method controls. Since broadleaf and grasses have different germination times and physiological structures, those methods can be more effective when deployed in tandem[2].

Know Your Opponent

Weed types, emergence patterns, germination timing, germination depth, preferred germination temperature, seed banking, seed sizing, physical characteristics… The more you know about your opponent, the more effective you can be at deploying the right tools at the right time to get the most positive weed control outcome possible. Once you’ve taken stock of the types of weeds and their biological profiles, you can work out a 1-2 punch strategy for deploying chemical and mechanical ways of disrupting them at the most damaging times.

Hit Hard

When you’re coming into a fight, sometimes it’s right to start with a full-on assault. Weed control is one of those cases. One of the key points in battling weed control is to make sure you’re utilising herbicides at full strength. Under-application is a main contributing factor in herbicide resistance, because weak applications damage weeds without killing them. This then builds “immunity” within the genetics of the damaged plant and passes those traits onto any seeds it produces.

Similarly, tillage needs to be aggressive enough and disruptive enough to not just damage root systems, but truly remove them from the soil. Simple vertical tillage is sometimes not effective enough to kill weeds. Instead it’s knife-type blade pathway injures the plant and its root system without killing them completely. You can read more on the differences between vertical tillage and compact discs on our USA blog.

Don’t Dig Deep, Dig Smart

Farmers struggle with implementing tillage-based weed control in no-till systems, but the no-till approach brings challenges, including an almost single-method reliance on chemical weed control. But a return to deep, heavily disruptive and erosive tillage practices with one-way or moldboard ploughs isn’t the answer either. Instead, studies by the Grains Resource Development Corporation[3] suggest newer tillage options like compact discs, for finding the sweet spot between achieving weed control and retaining the benefits of a no-till system.

Dual purpose tillers like the Speedtiller® strike the balance between disruption and soil preservation while still effectively attacking the weed issue. They can still kill off weed seeds, especially finer seeds like grasses, but also help retain soil-building, erosion-controlling soil residues, leaving soil profiles stronger than with traditional tillage methods and machines.

Read more on tillage here: TILL TO KILL: THE FIGHT AGAINST HERBICIDE RESISTANT WEEDS

Attacking weeds with a full array of methods and with a complete understanding of how they work against the weeds in your paddocks is imperative to winning the war against weeds. As weeds adapt to our existing groups of herbicides, exploring disruptive mechanical methods like tillage can give farmers the advantage they need to fight and defeat the weeds!

View it in Action: K-Line Ag Speedtiller® Warring Against Weeds!

  • Retain your moisture and kill your summer weeds. The fastest way to manage your summer weed growth!
  • 9.5m Speedtiller Powerflex cleaning up Chemical Resistant Weeds in the Bribbaree District
  • Summer Rains and Chemical Resistant Weeds – Get prepared with the K-Line Ag Speedtiller®!

Read More on our Series: War on Chemical Resistance

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Driving Toward Driverless

By K-Line Ag
Published on

We hear quite a bit in the popular media about driverless vehicles – Tesla’s futuristic driverless lorries, Google’s driverless cars. But less media attention is spent on driverless agricultural implements, despite some very innovative progress in that area.

Case and New Holland’s Driverless Tractors

The Push for Driverless Ag Tech

Getting to driverless vehicles is a challenge for designers, engineers, and manufacturers. Regardless of the type of vehicle or the developer, the successful operation of all driverless technology hinges upon a complex combination of sensors, cameras, and scanners, and the potential for issues with this technology is significant. Even though driverless cars and lorries operate in the less harsh and somewhat more controlled conditions of city streets, both cars and driverless tractors are influenced by environmental factors like heavy dust and adverse weather. Add these environmental impacts to the developmental challenges of technology, safety, and regulation, and you can begin to understand the long road ahead for driverless tech.

This long road hasn’t deterred manufacturers from chasing the dream of driverless tractors, however. Major international manufacturers like John Deere, Case New Holland (CNH) and AGCO Fendt are all actively developing solutions, as are a few small ag tech start-ups. Each company is approaching the driverless challenge from a unique angle, modifying their vision as technologies change or innovations create new opportunities.

Technological approaches vary by manufacturer and reflect industry trends or producer needs. The three main approaches are relationally-guided autonomy, swarm technology and self-guided autonomy, and we’ll look at some innovations in each type.

Relationally-Guided Autonomy

AGCO Fendt started the relationally-guided autonomy style of driverless tech with its GuideConnect product, originally developed in the 2000s. This tech was an upgrade of autosteering technology, and based itself off of two tractors operating in proximity to each other within paddock utilizing a single operator. The single operator ran one tractor, called the pilot tractor. The second tractor functioned driverlessly, taking its cues for turning at headlands and maintaining row spacings from its position in relationship to the operator-driven pilot tractor, hence the “relationally-guided” name.

Despite being called a driverless technology, this approach still required a driver/operator. Getting away from an onboard operator was a key goal of driverless, so this type of driverless technology has largely been abandoned.

Self-Guided Autonomy

The path to self-guided autonomy is one chosen by major manufacturers John Deere and CNH. John Deere has had autosteer technology based upon GPS location and other embedded tech for years, allowing tractors and harvesters to operate in perfectly straight lines, but current autonomous offerings require an onboard operator. Deere engineers are working through the roadblocks to full autonomy[1], but haven’t yet released a prototype for public viewing.

Deere competitor CNH is a step ahead on autonomy from this perspective, making waves in the US[2] and Australia[3] in the past two years with their futuristic-looking, cab-less, driverless, self-guided tractor. While no production timeline is public or guaranteed, the tractor has been making the rounds at farm shows and expositions, giving the farmers a look at the future of their operations.

Swarm Technology

The rise of drones has contributed to the development of swarm technology as a “driverless” approach to production farming. Rather than relying on large, standalone tractors and harvesters, swarm tech is designed to utilize smaller pieces of equipment governed by a large central “brain.”

AGCO has developed swarm technology for sowing operations in the Fendt Xaver autonomous swarm model[4]. The autonomous Fendt sowing units are small, and dozens of them are transported by a logistics unit, which is capable of being pulled by a standard pickup truck. This logistics unit also helps direct the operations of the swarm units, functioning as a “brain” which the sowing units access to receive information for and feedback on their work.

Independent researchers and drone operators are also utilizing this approach. The Hands Free Hectare, a barley production project headed by researchers in the UK, recently completed the world’s first hands-free harvest by implementing a swarm-based solution overseen by drones[5].

Start-ups Bridge the Gap

American startup company Autonomous Tractor Corporation is also working in the autonomous space, but in a way unlike its big-name competitors. Rather than trying to design standalone equipment, the company is focusing on overcoming the challenges of autonomy. ATC’s focus has resulted in more easily managed sensor arrays and artificial intelligence-driven navigation systems. These allow autonomous tractors to “learn” the paddocks they cover. This makes them more intelligent and efficient with each season. Once ATC’s programs fix these autonomy challenges, they’re hoping to partner with manufacturers to integrate their solutions into new generations of equipment.

A true driverless tractor is still years away, but as in many facets of life, technology and innovation keep pushing us closer to an autonomous reality.

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Drought Relief Package Boosted To Over Half A Billion Dollars

By K-Line Ag
Published on

The Department of Primary Industries Rural Assistance Authority (NSW Government) announced in a media release this week that they are adding $284 million to the drought relief package in the NSW Budget 2018, bringing the NSW Government’s drought relief package to well over half a billion dollars.

Almost all of NSW is now suffering from an extended dry period, which is expected to continue throughout the winter and potentially spring. This package should help to bring support for farmers and their families facing drought.

Some of the changes announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and the Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair include increased financial support, funding for mental health, key infrastructure (including Doppler weather stations) and streamlining kangaroo management.

Ms Berejiklian said “To date, the Farm Innovation Fund has delivered $220 million to more than 1300 farmers to help build on-farm infrastructure and prepare for and battle drought. Our farmers are continuing to tell us that these loans are one of the best measures available, which is why we have decided to double the funding available, taking the Fund’s total value to $500 million.”

This boost will hopefully bring relief to farmers affected by the drought and assist primary producers in identifying and addressing risks to their farming enterprise, improve permanent farm infrastructure and ensure long-term productivity and sustainable land use, aiding in meeting changes to seasonal conditions.

To find out more about the package, visit the DPI Rural Assistance Authority or for help with mental health and counselling, visit the Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health.

Help us give $50 to the Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) is a state-wide organisation that is committed to improving the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of rural and remote residents. To show our support for this worthy cause, K-Line Ag will be donating $50 for every hay rake sold to end users, from July through to September 2018.

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Early Season Ryegrass Management

By K-Line Ag
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Every producer has harvest dreams of golden fields of ripened wheat swaying gently in the breeze. What no one wants to see are those golden fields marred by the tall, spindly seed heads of ryegrass peeking over the top of the wheat crop.

Combatting ryegrass infestations is serious business throughout Australia. The GRDC estimates herbicide-resistant ryegrasses and other weeds cause losses for producers of between AU$2.5-4.5 billion per annum. The International Herbicide-Resistant Weed Database ranks ryegrass (lolium rigidum) as the most resistant species based upon number of sites of action. With tough weeds like ryegrass, employing multiple modes of action (both cultural and mechanical, as well as chemical) across different parts of the plant’s germination, growth and propagation cycles is fundamental.

Draw Down The Seed Bank

One obvious cultural mode of action is seed and paddock hygiene – effectively stopping seeds before they start. A single ryegrass stand of less than 100 plants per square metre can produce over 45,000 seeds under ideal conditions. By not introducing new seeds (either from contaminated seed or equipment moved from paddock to paddock without cleaning), producers can give other modes of action more time to work, and against fewer plants.

Time The Tillage

The term “strategic tillage” gets bandied about quite frequently in a number of contexts, but when using tillage as a mechanical means to control ryegrass in pre-emergence, the strategy of the tillage – the timing in regards to weather and the ryegrass seed’s germination cycle, the proximity to sowing, the coordination with pre-emergent herbicide applications – is necessary to ensure its effectiveness. Using a K-Line Speedtiller to disrupt the plant’s growing cycle produces long-lasting effects on its ability to compete with the crops in the paddock.

A particularly troublesome characteristic of ryegrass seed is its ability to germinate at a wide range of depths. In university studies, ryegrass has germinated at depths as shallow as 5mm. It prefers germination depths of around 20mm but can germinate at depths 5x that deep. Ryegrass tends to lose germination viability at depths over 100mm, which means an early season deep tillage session followed by the application of a pre-emergent herbicide (sometimes called a “double knock”) can drastically reduce the number of viable seeds for germination in the impending growing season.

Teaming this approach with a fast-follow sowing pass with adequate seed density produces both a setback to ryegrass’ ability to germinate and an unfriendly, competitive growing environment that gives advantage to wheat and other cereal crops. The combination of modes of action both reduces the number of viable plants within the growing season, but also literally buries the seed bank, leaving fewer seeds to germinate in a much unfriendlier seed bed.

As with all things herbicide-resistance-related, producers must continue to be vigilant and play the long game. Ryegrass herbicide-resistance has skyrocketed in the forty years since the first resistant plants were found in WA and SA in 1982. It will take at least that many growing seasons to get the plants back under control, trialling solutions and determining the methodologies best suited to addressing the problem.

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Farms Work Best on Good Tucker

By K-Line Ag
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Few people can eat like farmers. When your day starts at sun-up and runs well past sun-down, it takes some energy to keep moving. And we all know that good fuel helps us perform our best. Our bodies metabolise it more efficiently and we work and feel better as a result.

We all like this good tucker, because it helps us meet our energy and performance needs. The same thing holds true for soils. Feeding them “good tucker” in the form of retained and incorporated residues gives them the fuel they need to support proper plant development during the next growing season. Similarly, with the good tucker provided by residue incorporation, soils can enrich themselves! This minimises their need for extra nutrients and undoes damage caused by poor soil conservation practices.

Increased Humus Levels

Reduced tillage correlates to a direct increase in soil humus levels, because it provides a more suitable environment for the decay of organic matter and the mineralisation of plant residues. Reducing tillage altogether, however, does not meet this issue. It’s the tillage action which brings about the residue incorporation necessary to put the nutrients down into the soil.

The Solution: Strategic Tillage (you can read more about strategic tillage here). More humus means more retention of nutrients, a better overall soil profile, and less need for additive nutrients.

Increased soil humus levels also provide higher concentrations of soil organic carbon (SOC). Higher levels of SOC increases the activity-level of beneficial soil microbes, as well as the diversity of those microbes. This improves fertility, overall soil profile, and water-holding capacity[1].

Residue Incorporation

Getting benefits of retained residues into the soil is one place where multi-function implements like the K-Line Ag Speedtiller® shine. Surface residues decay faster when they’re smaller, and the discing and trash-cutting components of the Speedtiller turn even the toughest maize stalks into smaller, more easily-compostable pieces. Faster decay means faster mineralisation of key nutrients, and earlier bioavailability of those nutrients to the next season’s crop. Some estimates put the rate of mineralisation by crop residues at 1/4 to 1/5 of the plant’s demand during peak growth, so faster mineralisation means better early growth in new crops[2].

Quality Seedbed Preparation

Seedbed preparation can be difficult in high residue soils. Soil surfaces with high residues are rough with retained stalks, root balls, and other detritus. However, good germination depends on the ability of the seed to remain in contact with moist, nutritive soil and is usually accomplished best in smoother soil.

Striking the balance between retaining valuable residues from a previous crop and meeting the seedbed needs of a new crop is another situation where the Speedtiller® excels. It allows farmers to address both the soil and the incoming crop needs with its multi-functional approach. The Speedtiller processes residues into small, easily integrated pieces, leaving a smooth, prepped seedbed surface and a high-residue, nutrient-rich humus to drive seed germination and growth.

Reduced Chemical Resistance

Soils with high residual organic matter from previous crops can create a barrier to new weed seed germination. Similarly, light tillage and residue incorporation with an implement like the K-Line Ag Speedtiller® can disrupt weed seed banks, delaying or eliminating germination or stunting weed growth. In this application, tillage can function as a mechanical means of weed control. It minimises the need for chemical controls and thus reduces the possibility of chemical resistance in local weed populations.

While we people realise that eating better improves our own performance, we as farm producers and managers need to recognise the correlation between this concept and the health and performance of our paddocks, soils and crops.

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Fodder Conservation 101

By K-Line Ag
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There’s an old adage that says, “make hay while the sun shines,” but for forage producers in many Australian farming regions, the challenge isn’t the sun – it’s the rainfall. Now that most areas of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have seen above average rainfall after years of drought, the decision is how best to harvest and process the abundance of hay that this year’s conditions have provided.

To Dry Or Not To Dry

For most producers, the first question is whether their unique storage, usage and logistical requirements necessitate drying their hay or ensiling (or fermenting) pastures to make silage. Dry hay production usually utilises hay storage buildings or sheds, with hay processed into bales of various sizes and shapes. The type of processed bale is dependent upon the usage – is the bale being rolled out in a paddock? Fed in a feeder? – and the way fodder is handled – does it need to be trucked from the storage location to the feeding location? – is a determining factor when deciding whether drying or ensiling is a better fit. Bale type and sizing also determine the optimal moisture content of the hay, with large square bales requiring lower moisture contents than small squares or round bales .

Dry hay’s end quality depends not only on the quality of the pastures grown, but also on the handling of the cut pastures within the paddock. Getting a proper moisture percentage – usually around 12-13% – keeps the hay from fermenting (the process it goes through when it’s ensiled), while also allowing the stems, leaves and flowers of the plant to remain moist enough to not break down during processing.

While dry hay can be used for any number of pasture animals and ruminants, from sheep and goats to horses and cows, it is usually less desirable for dairy animals due to nutrient content. However, dry hay’s easier digestibility means it is a sought-after feed type for horses. A producer interested in selling their fodders on the local feed market, rather than retaining them for their own usage, should research their local market and the types of buyers – dairy farms, cattle ranches, boarding stables – who purchase in their area. Exporters planning to move hay to Asian or Middle Eastern markets should look to both the end markets’ livestock (beef and dairy cattle, along with some high performance racehorse markets) as well as export requirements for quality assurance and grading .

Ensiling can be done in upright or bunker-style silos, or within plastic wrapped bales of various shapes and sizes. Like with dry hay, the shape and size of the bales is determined by usage and logistics. Ensiling pasture fodders is usually a long-term commitment, since both bunker silos and upright storage silos require investments in unloaders, machines, concrete and other storage and handling materials.

Pastures meant for ensiling are better when taken earlier and processed wetter. Recommendations for silage processing of fodder recommend cutting when the pasture is at no more than 20% headed and processing at around 30% dry matter . This production methodology, as well as the storage in silos, bunkers, or wrapped bales, means that the organic matter in the fodder ferments anaerobically (without air) as opposed to simply rotting or decaying. This helps retain nutrients from the plants, producing a long-lasting, high quality feed.

It All Starts In The Field

Regardless of the fodder conservation practice a producer chooses, all quality hay or silage production starts in the field. Pasture vegetative components vary by the animal consuming the feed. General use pasture can contain a good mixture of nutritive legumes, like lucerne and clover; grains, like oats and barley; and mass vegetation, like ryegrasses and other perennial grasses. Export hay crops tend to be oaten hay or lucerne, depending on the end market, as these crops are more durable for the containerization and export processes. Dairy mixes, for both goats and cows, tend to be mixed more heavily on the oat and legume side to produce higher-component, protein- and nutrient-rich milks and support the higher caloric needs of milking animals.

Once the mix is seeded and growing, the timing of fodder conservation process becomes critical . While growing requires rainfall or irrigation, mowing and wilting (also called curing) require a period of dryness – specifically a wilting period of at least 48-72 hours following mowing. While most producers use a mower-conditioner with either a roller head or a flail head to fracture the plant stems and speed up evaporative drying, some on-the-ground wilting time is necessary to reach an adequate moisture content, particularly for dry hay in either local or export use.

Hay rakes, like the Delta series rakes from K-Line , help producers manage mowed hay for both moisture control and processing needs. The rake can gently move wilting vegetation to better allow airflow amongst stems and leaves, while also positioning windrows together to speed up baling or silage chopping processes. Rakes like the K-Line Ag Delta series are designed to move vegetation with care, even at high ground speeds, in order to preserve nutrient-rich leaves and seed heads.

Modern baling and chopping equipment, particularly large square and round balers, work more efficiently with larger windrows. This means that raking together windrows improves not only the drying or wilting time of your hay crop, it can actually prevent processing problems.

Once baling or chopping is completed, storage processes are determined by the logistical factor mentioned previously, as well as the long- and short-term needs of the end-user facility. For dry hay facilities, hay can be shedded and tarped for longer-term storage, containerized and exported for market, or stacked for shorter-term usage. For chopped silage, packing into bunkers for later extraction with a telehandler or front end loader is most common, while upright silos require chopper boxes and blowers to transport processed feed from the field to the storage facility and up into the silo.

For wrapped sileage bales, some producers choose continuous wrapping, leaving caterpillar-like lines of bales across paddocks, while others opt for single bale wrapping and the traditional stack-and-shed model seen in dry hay.

Whatever the appropriate fodder production and storage approach for the farm, the producer and the market, K-Line Ag hay rakes help ensure the ideal conditions for drying and processing your hay crop.

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From the Trenches: Combatting Ryegrass in the War on Chemical Resistant Weeds

By K-Line Ag
Published on

What’s more certain than finding saltwater in the ocean? Apparently, finding ryegrass in your paddocks! In our survey of Australian farmers conducted by K-Line Ag throughout July and August this year, ryegrass presence and herbicide resistance were a recurring theme. Nearly every respondent that addressed the survey’s weed herbicide resistance questions mentioned ryegrass in their response. This was a strong indication of the prevalence of the problem, and the difficulty of finding a suitable answer to address it.

3 Ways to Control Ryegrass and Weeds

1. Think Site of Action to Combat Herbicide Resistance

Australia’s not alone in the battle against chemical-resistant weeds. Most countries with industrialised agriculture struggle with local variations of the same problem. However, according to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Australia ranks an inauspicious second in the world for its number of herbicide resistant weeds[1].

Like so many other common weeds in Australia (fleabane, wild radish, milkthistle, windmill grass, liverseed grass, and barnyard grass are some of the most often-reported throughout the country), ryegrass earned its noxious reputation by foiling some of the most popular herbicides on the market. While resistance site of action varies by region, some sort of ryegrass with herbicide resistance exists in every Australian state. The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds keeps a comprehensive assessment of all resistance types by state, including what site of action/class of herbicide resistance is found in each location[2]. Knowing what types of resistance are prevalent in your area and adjusting your strategy around those resistances can help increase your chances of success.

2. When Possible, Fight Pre-Emergence

Getting ahead of weeds’ emergence from the soil has historically been one way to combat their chemical resistance[3]. By attacking the plant at its most vulnerable growing point – germination, when the plant uses the limited energy resources of its encapsulated endosperm to push new growth out from the seed coat – pre-emergent herbicides sabotage the plant’s ability to access the enzymes they need to fuel their first-stage growth. When effective, pre-emergent herbicides block plants from ever recovering that expelled energy through photosynthesis as they normally would, which finally desiccates them.

However, the efficacy of pre-emergent herbicide application is waning. Pre-emergent herbicide resistance is also a growing problem in all Australian states, according to a 2018 news release by GRDC[4]. Surveys conducted this year showed multiple resistances, including to combinations of herbicides from the D, J and K Groups. Managing ryegrass is therefore becoming increasingly dependent on non-chemical means. This includes strategic tillage with implements like the K-Line Ag Speedtiller®, or with the implementation of a diversified weed control programme.

3. Try Tickling

One of the most popular methods for tillage-based mechanical weed control is shallow cultivation, or autumn tickling[5]. Autumn tickle is a shallow-depth tillage that pushes the weed seedbank to germinate earlier. This ultimately depletes an area’s weed seed reserves, by allowing knockdown herbicides or other mechanisms to control them. The Speedtiller® is uniquely well-suited to this weed control method, because it features a dual-mode operating system that controls weight, pressure, and operating depth with a series of lever- or hydraulic-action adjustable components.

Even with a fully adjustable tillage implement like the Speedtiller®, not all weed types or situations respond well to autumn tickling. Only those weeds who are easily disturbed from dormancy, like ryegrass, are good targets for this approach. Similarly, not all soil types respond well to autumn tickling either. Sandy and non-wetting soils are not good candidates for this type of weed control.

The ryegrass resistance issue isn’t a simple fix, and it’s not an issue that is going away. Effectively combatting ryegrass in the future will require the development and implementation of an integrated weed control strategy. These strategies will work best if they minimise the use of herbicides. Instead, use a combination of chemical and mechanical methods to control, disrupt and eliminate weeds and their seeds.

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Get to the Point: Winged Cast & Ripping Points for Tillage Applications

By K-Line Ag
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The one-size-fits-all approach almost never works. Imagine if all the shoe manufacturers in the world only made one size of shoe in one style? Very few people would be happy because that size or style would not fit their unique needs. Think if they were all size 40 high heels – not a good fit for most farmers!

The ability to customise to need, soil type, crop rotation, season, and other considerations factors into a producer’s choice of one type of tillage point over another. Winged cast points and ripping points are popular options with strong use cases. Understanding the benefits of both can help address your unique soil or tillage issues and provide noticeable impacts on common crop production concerns like crop cultivation, seed germination, and soil conservation.

Choosing the correct tillage point for a particular soil type or application is the first step in controlling the aggressiveness of the tillage for that paddock. Point selection also allows a producer to fit the point’s strengths into his or her strategic tillage plan, taking into account the variables mentioned above, as well as any additional mechanical means or chemical applications scheduled for deployment on the ground.

Winged cast points are designed to help establish the crop in the soil medium while still minimizing the chances of erosion. These small points, with their slightly triangular shape and channelized appearance, are best suited for mixing soils or inverting soils of differing types. Soils flow up over the tips, with the channel and wing combination helping to turn them as the implement is propelled forward by the tractor. Winged cast points have been shown to reduce rill erosion in sandy and loamy soils in university tests.

Conversely, ripping points are designed to not mix soils like their winged cast cousins, but rather to disturb them at a sub-surface level. The straight design and bevelled tip of a ripping point is meant to break up hard pan deposits beneath the soil while leaving the surface, and any residues there, largely undisturbed. This point is a good option for farms with harder packing or sticky soils like clays.

Since these points are usage-specific, choosing an implement that accommodates both drives down costs and improves efficiency. K-Line Ag’s MaxxRipper implement offers both point types, giving producers the opportunity to select the point that’s best-suited for the soils within their acreage.

K-Line Ag MaxxRipper Point Options

  • Minimum Soil Disturbance Point – Ideal for breaking that hard pan with minimal soil disturbance
  • Cast Wing Point – Ideal for soil mixing and inversion

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Managing Crop Profitability: Juggling Farm Cropping Variables

By K-Line Ag
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Creating lasting crop profitability in a cropping operation can sometimes feel a bit like a never-ending circus act. Producers are constantly juggling profitability variables, trying to ensure nothing gets dropped and cropping operations stay profitable. So with a plethora of variables to choose from, how do producers pick those most impactful for their farms?

The Big 6 Drivers of Crop Profitability

A recent GRDC project has some pretty insightful answers, particularly when it comes to managing stubbles while continuing to drive profitability[1]. The GRDC maintains that not managing stubbles can have an adverse effect on “the big six” drivers of crop profitability:

  1. Summer weed control
  2. Timely sowing
  3. Adequate and even crop establishment
  4. In-crop weed control
  5. Foliar and root diseases
  6. Nitrogen-based nutrition

Depending on the types of residual stubbles and the rotation of crops within the paddock, the impact can vary, and it can be more detrimental to one particular “big six” driver than another. But knowing how and when to manage stubbles can present some marked improvements in crop performance and profitability.

The GRDC offers a number of options to help producers avoid blockages, deter pests, and meet other challenges of crop production by managing stubbles. But some are particularly worth pointing out, as they apply to high-cost centres like crop establishment and in-crop weed control.

Strategic Cultivation – A Net Positive

Strategic cultivation[2] provides relatively small disturbance to the soil profile and very small chances of erosion, particularly if employed as late as possible to avoid erosive rainfall between the tillage event and the new crop’s establishment growth. When viewed against the weed control advantages strategic tillage can provide in the pre-sowing portion of the growing season, its value becomes a net positive. Its overall value in increasing crop production through weed control outstrips any potential negatives that might exist from possible erosion.

This strategic tillage employment also has the added profitability benefit of driving down weed control costs later in the season by “nipping them in the bud” – quite literally! – during the earlier timeframe. While this value can be hard to track on a balance sheet, spending less in chemical weed control applications certainly is a profitable by-product of the strategic tillage approach.

Read more about strategic tillage & weed control: TILL TO KILL – THE FIGHT AGAINST HERBICIDE RESISTANT WEEDS

Decrease Additive Costs

Decreased spending via tillage is another aspect of profitability that occurs during the post-harvest time-frame, this time through decreased nutrient additive costs. Mulching stubbles back into the soil post-harvest incorporates valuable nutrients back into the profile, including nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and sulfur. Post-harvest top dressing of organic stubble has many benefits:

  1. Provides a richer soil profile
  2. Increases moisture retention during winter periods, and
  3. Decreases the need for broadcast fertilisers during the subsequent growing seasons.

Staggered Weed Control

Employing the combination of these approaches also helps catch weeds at two different growth/development points. It interrupts their germination and early growth in the pre-sowing season, and disrupts their seed setting later in the year. Utilising a staggered weed control approach like this keeps weed propagation levels low, soil enrichment high, and more dollars in the pocket of the canny farmer juggling the checkbook!

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Mechanical Remedies for Non-Wetting Soils

By K-Line Ag
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Non-wetting or hydrophobic soils are an increasing issue throughout districts in WA and SA, posing a conundrum for farmers. To grow crops, simple things are needed: a matrix, some moisture, sunlight. But what to do when the seemingly simple pieces of the farming equation repel one another? It’s a question that has “absorbed” both farmers and scientists for nearly 100 years.

Traditional methods for combating non-wetting soils in Western Australia and South Australia have been mechanical in nature. These efforts were led by the mouldboard plough, which provides the deep penetration needed to find and incorporate more clay-based soils into the non-wetting profile. However, utilising a mouldboard plough comes with distinct disadvantages, particularly with the susceptibility of fine sandy soils to wind erosion and the increased tendency to lose surface moisture due to incomplete soil mixing and decreased organic matter integration.

Recent Implement Developments

More recent implement developments have attempted to address the shortcomings of mouldboard ploughing as a mechanical solution for non-wetting soils. Rotary spaders have assisted with the issue of soil mixing, but have been less successful at addressing the other concerns with erosion controls and residue incorporation. Without solving these companion issues, farmers have found their soils to be less hydrophobic post-spading, but more moveable and less rich, due to the absence of residues within the matrix.

Following spaders with additional passes utilising other tillage pieces has some benefit, but creates an entirely new set of challenges. Additional passages mean longer seedbed preparation times, decreased productivity, and increased instances of compaction. This last is of particular concern, as recently worked soils are disturbed more deeply into the subsoil profile and thus more susceptible to static and vibratory compaction at deeper levels.

New Advancements

New advancements in tillage technology have led to multi-function tillage implements that can help farmers solve both the primary non-wetting soils complaint and the secondary concerns about residues, erosion and compaction. Implements like the K-Line Ag Speedtiller® perform multiple mechanical processes on the soil in a single pass, eliminating the concern of secondary-pass subsoil compaction. An initial row of mounted lateral discs dig deeply into the soil, pulling more clay-based soils to the top for integration. Then finishing discs and roller chop and incorporate residues, leaving a smooth finish. This provides both a prepped seedbed and a well-integrated soil stratum of hydrophobic and clay soils with interspersed organic residues. When required working depths are 6-7”, this combined soil end product addresses both the primary and secondary issues of non-wetting soil remedies.

Non-wetting soils are a matter of fact, and a force of nature. But with the mechanical implements obtainable in the agricultural market today, there are remedies available that address the issue without creating new issues.

Speedtiller® Research in Non-Wetting Soils

A crop after Speedtiller® usage, yielding 3 tonnes/ha. Comparatively, on the right, with no Speedtiller® pass, the yield was half. Results may vary depending on seasonal conditions.

This diagram shows results of research with the K-Line Ag Speedtiller® in non-wetting sand in Western Australia. This image shows a crop after Speedtiller® usage, yielding 3 tonnes/ha. Comparatively, on the right, with no Speedtiller® pass, the yield was half. Results may vary depending on seasonal conditions.

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Mixing the Cake: Strategic Cultivation, a Solution to Nutrient Stratification

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Just like an unmixed chocolate cake would leave the hopeful taster wondering why they bothered, a crop sown into stratified soil conditions will leave the producer in a similar dissatisfied state. We are very thankful to Peter Watt, Senior Regional Agronomist at Elders Cowra, for sharing his wealth of agricultural knowledge and experience with us at our Reseller Conference last month. Read on for a summary of the key points on liming and stratification which we covered in this session.

If it’s worth liming, it’s worth liming well

Producers generally lime every 8-10 years, so it is very important to make that incorporation work to its utmost benefit. Liming is a significant expense which gives huge advantage when mixed to an adequate depth (top 10cm soil layer). Shallow incorporation of lime has become more and more common with the implementation of zero or no-till systems. This can often result in surface-concentrated lime, and the PH level of the soil ‘downstairs’ becomes severely limiting.

It’s what’s downstairs that counts

A sandwich layer of acidic soil is becoming a common obstacle in many areas of south eastern Australia, due to this shallow liming issue. Working in areas with this acidic subsoil layer can severely limit crop yield, especially if the crop is not particularly acid-tolerant.

The simple act of growing a plant actually neutralises the surface soil; it pulls magnesium from deep in the soil and drops it on the surface. However, this means that although the surface may improve, the deeper layers of soil can in fact acidify, resulting in this sandwich layer. Therefore although a soil test in the top layer of soil may look great, soil tests needs to be done to depth to determine the state of the soil below. According to the GRDC paper on Deep Incorporation of Lime, this is ideally 50cm.

For example, in highly acidic soil levels of ph 4.2, the saturation of minerals like aluminium and manganese is toxic to the plant. It also limits to access to phosphorous and other essential nutrients. So a plant grows in the top layer of soil, and when its roots strike the hostile acidic layer of subsoil, they will pull back. This compromises the cell division that occurs at root ends, which is essential for plants to obtain water and nutrients.

Mix the Cake, and Mix it to Depth

Deep root structure is hugely beneficial to a plant. Not only is there a wealth of nutrients, it also improves drought tolerance and resistance. It’s imperative to get the root structure down into the subsoil to utilize the full potential of the soil resource. In order to do that, the soil levels need to be right. Once the subsurface acidity layer is fixed, the crop roots have unrestricted access to soil and can grow to their maximum potential.

Mixing the cake is crucial. The lime that neutralises these acidic soils needs to be mixed to depth. It moves 0.5-1cm every year through chemical equilibrium, but the best way to get it down into the soil is to “mix the cake, and mix it to depth”.

Stratification of Nutrients

Lime isn’t the only thing that needs mixing. Nutrient stratification is a common occurrence which can reduce the crop’s ability to access soil nutrients, significantly reducing crop yield. Stratification of nutrients occurs naturally in all cropping systems, but is accentuated in no-till systems.

Mobile nutrients such as nitrogen and sulfur can move deeper into the soil profile. This increases stratification and creates nutrient deficiencies in the topsoil if they move past the rooting zone. Conversley, immobile nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium can be concentrated – or stratified – in the top 10-15 centimetres of soil.

Farming systems can exacerbate nutrient stratification. For example, reduced tillage prevents soil mixing. This makes banded nutrients even more distinct, either horizontally in drill rows or by vertical concentration in surface or subsurface layers. See whitepapers listed below for more information on nutrient stratification.

Embrace the Steel

Zero-tillage and reduced tillage techniques have been adopted significantly over the last 2-3 decades, locally and in most of southern NSW and south-eastern Australia. This in itself has been wonderful for soil preservation, nutrient use and water efficiency. However, there is a consequence to it which we need to be aware of.

We have considerably reduced cultivation over the last 20-30 years for very good reasons. But strategically, we need to “embrace the steel again”, to ameliorate some of these issues.

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Never Cultivating Can be a Danger, Research Reveals

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Strategic cultivation can alleviate soil stratification

An interesting article recently written by Bob Freebairn for The Land newspaper, has outlined how the work the NSW DPI is doing is revealing that strategic cultivation can alleviate soil stratification.

Top-dressed lime and severe acidic layers

One of the main points that has been outlined in this research is how top-dressed lime incorporated by a sowing operation in zero or no till, or even minimal tillage, more than commonly results in surface-concentrated lime and an elevated pH in the 0-5cm soil layer.

Even more importantly, irrespective of liming history, and critical to plant growth, is severe acidic layers within a 5-15cm depth of the soil profile, across a range of soil types.

A large-scale acid research program

A large-scale acid research program, begun in 2015, is investigating legume performance on acidic soils.

Helen Burns, Mark Norton and Peter Tyndall (NSW Primary Industries Department) conducted the study and Grains Research and Development Corporation helped fund it.

To understand more on this research and how it affects your farming practices, read this article

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Planning ahead now for soil improvements

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Unlike in other states, grain growers across the wheatbelt of WA have been faced with another dry start to their cropping season. The August Rabobank Australia Monthly update shows that both Geraldton and Esperance have had rainfall lower than the same 3 month period (May to July) in both 2018 and 2019[1].

However, in August, Geraldton had a fall of nearly 25mm on 9 August and Esperance have had nearly 80mm to date in August. While this has improved the soil moisture profile and will help crops along into Spring, the Relative root zone soil moisture[2] across the region still remains below average. Shown below.

So How Is This Affecting Farming Decisions?

While the crops are in and growing, farmers are mulling over their management plan for next season and what they can do to further improve productivity, efficiencies, and soil health to optimise every drop of rain they receive next season.

Bill Larsen, the Director of Sales & Marketing at K-Line Ag has been talking with farmers across the region. “The dry seasonal conditions in WA have meant farmers are even more determined to re-evaluate their soil improvement techniques. They are progressive and always considering new management practises and methods that will help improve yields.”

The K-Line Ag range has become very popular across the WA Wheatbelt. They are Australian made and continually evolving to meet the demands of the various soil types and farming industries. The machines of particularly high interest to WA grain growers are the new large Speedtiller Powerflex® models, Rippers and the Wheel Track Renovators.

‘One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to soil improvements. We’ve had growing interest from farmers wanting both a MaxxRipper® and a Speedtiller Powerflex®. These farmers tend to have non-wetting soils, a light sandy soil on top with clay deep down in the profile. They are experiencing good results in soil structure and production levels, by first ripping and then cross passing with a Powerflex. The Powerflex leaves the clay nicely incorporated through the top 10cm of soil, rather than in big clay clods, thereby improving both soil structure, water retention and crop yields.

The large Powerflex® models weigh between 7.5 tonnes and 22.5 tonnes and have between 50 and 125 discs operating at any one time. The newest addition to the range of K-Line machines is the 15.5m Mammoth Powerflex. This model is particularly well suited to the large scale farming operations of the WA grain growing regions.

Not often can you buy the one machine that serves so many purposes. The Speedtiller Powerflex® by K-Line Ag is your answer to chemical resistant weeds, residue management and incorporation, soil structure improvement and seedbed preparation.

Neil Streat, Salesperson at Codemo Machinery standing in front of a 15.5m Speedtiller® Powerflex

Above: Neil Streat, Salesperson at Codemo Machinery standing in front of a 15.5m Speedtiller Powerflex®

The other tool of choice that is seeing great results across the region is the K-Line Ag Trackattack®. Popular among controlled traffic farmers who have started to notice compaction and rutting along wheel tracks in cropping paddocks.

K-Line Ag has developed the answer to these tram-line maintenance issues, with the Trackattack® – a simple but effective unit designed to level wheel tracks. It leaves the track smooth when working in trash, kills any weeds growing on the track edges, and leaves an even, level tramline, which is important to ensure GPS equipment maintains consistency.

K-Line Ag continues to drive ahead with innovation in farm tillage machinery by listening to and acting on the needs and challenges faced by Australian farmers. “When producers are faced with new challenges and pain points we like to work along side them to develop the tillage and seeding machines that meet their requirements.” said Bill.

If you have any questions about the K-Line machinery range or would like to discuss it’s application on your property, CALL K-LINE ON 1800 194 131 or visit your local K-Line Dealer

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Rip Deep to Keep Moisture

By K-Line Ag
Published on

If Australians have learned anything from the weather of the last few years, it should be that moisture needs management. It is never a given, and rain come in many forms, from too little to too much. Ensuring soils are prepped and ready for rain events and moisture collection can mean the difference between a great crop, a good crop and in the worst case, no crop.

Combatting Compaction

Deep ripping can be particularly useful on sandy soils, especially in instances where soils have been subject to years of repetitive compaction. Compacted soils compress soil particles together[1]. The act of compression decreases pore space – the area between soil particles that allows water and air to reach under the surface. Pore spaces are critical not only to the movement of moisture to plant roots, but also to the decomposition processes build soil richness and humus. Yield losses due to compaction in just Western Australia are estimated at nearly $800 million per year[2], as determined by research by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA)

Deep ripping re-establishes pore space by breaking up compaction and providing pathways between the surface and sub-surface areas of the soil profile. Breaking up compaction to improve moisture retention is best accomplished by utilising a standard ripping point, which allows for deep separation of compacted soil particles, also called “shatter,” without disturbing valuable organic matter on the soil’s surface[3].

Mixing Profiles

Another way for deep ripping to improve a soil’s moisture retention capacity is when it enhances mixture between differing soil layers. In heavily stratified duplex soils, where sandier soils are layered over deeper clay soils, moisture penetration can suffer[4]. While moisture might run freely into the sandier top layer soils, it can be stopped short by moisture-resistant clay soils. This can keep moisture from reaching optimal root depths, stunting plant growth and impeding seed development.

Using a cast wing point while deep ripping can cut through soil stratification and invert soil profiles, mixing soil types for better water penetration and overall moisture retention.

Yield Improvement in Small Grains and Legumes

Deep ripping on grain paddocks with sandy soils has repeatedly been shown to improve yields, and much of this improvement can be traced back to moisture availability. By increasing the pore spaces between soil particles, deep ripping brings moisture into the soil while simultaneously providing space for roots to develop. Additional root space in wheat crops translates into increased tillering, and studies in Western Australia and Victoria have shown yield increases of 25-40% following deep ripping treatments in sandy soils. Similar increases have been shown in legumes like chickpeas[5].

Root development produces additional yield by not only increasing seed development, but also by increasing standability. Pore spaces and good root systems help moisture and air move between soil levels and through to the plant. This movement keeps moisture from stagnating around under-developed root systems, preventing lodging and producing more harvestable stalks.

Opportunistic Ripping

Another chance for producers to improve moisture retention through ripping is less easily characterised, but still important. Opportunistic ripping is the process of following a significant out-of-season rain event with a deep ripping pass. Opportunistic ripping creates pathways for newly deposited surface moisture to reach the subsoil. Without ripping, this moisture would otherwise remain on the surface, eventually evaporating back into the air with minimal impact to long-term soil moisture quality for next season’s crops. ,p>The methodologies for application of deep ripping to a soil and moisture management plan are complex, but the ability of the process to significantly impact retained moisture are too valuable to overlook. Capitalizing on opportunistic moisture and increasing retained soil moisture over time are management practices that translate to improved yields and money in the bank.

The methodologies for application of deep ripping to a soil and moisture management plan are complex, but the ability of the process to significantly impact retained moisture are too valuable to overlook. Capitalizing on opportunistic moisture and increasing retained soil moisture over time are management practices that translate to improved yields and money in the bank.

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Soil Compaction: Give It a Rip!

By K-Line Ag
Published on

What drives the need for producers to incorporate deep ripping into their soil management processes? As in all things farming, it comes down to soil efficiency, plant growth and yield production.

Repeated pressure from farm equipment is the main cause of compaction, and its effects run deep. Wet soils, greater axle loads, and soils comprised of clay or silts are most at risk for compaction, because these factors produce ideal conditions for the soil particles to adhere to each other, creating hard pans.

Read the recent Farms and Farm Machinery case study on David McMillan’s application of K-Line products on his property at Young, NSW… click HERE for full story!

Soil compaction creates a physical barrier between germinating seeds and their ideal root and shoot development. This development is required to promote adequate growth, collect available nutrients, and produce desired yields. Without friable (easily crumbled or pulverized, loose soils) soil matrices to allow growth, plants must expel more stored energy resources from the seed to achieve germination. These stored resources mostly consist of water-activated enzymes that were sequestered by the parent plant during seed-setting in prior growing seasons. Plants survive on these stored resources until they grow sufficiently to reach light sources and begin the photosynthetic process.

Example of a damaged crop with large spaces and withered plant remnants

When a seed’s roots and shoots struggle through compacted soil during germination, they emerge from the ground weakened, stunted and nutrient deficient. As a result, they are ill-suited to long-term survival and yield potential, and some never make it at all. This accounts for the large spaces and withered plant remnants common in plantings on compacted soils. Having large swaths of paddock space with compacted soils decreases emergence and populations, impacting overall yield potential.There are many practices to help avoid compacted soils: tramline or controlled traffic farming implementations such as our TrackAttack, minimizing equipment operations on wet soils, using large diameter or flotation tyres, and implementing crop rotations that increase the presence of organic matter in the soils and provide varied rooting patterns. But sometimes compaction-inducing activities can’t be avoided, and so producers are forced to restore compacted areas.

Read our blog article on tramline farming conservation practices: ‘Bringing Things in Line’

One of the most popular methods for restoring compacted soils is through deep ripping. This mechanical intervention utilizes an implement like K-Line Ag’s MaxxRipper with long tynes that reach deeply into hard pans to break up and lift soils, therefore allowing room for plant development, nutrient and moisture entry, and organic materials accumulation. The expansion room provided by deep ripping supports plant growth, and bolsters yields. In a long-term study in WA on sandy soils, producers who used this method to address compaction reported yield increase of 15% in canola, 49% in barley, 11% in field peas, and over 70% in wheat[1].

With the K-Line Ag MaxxRipper, a crumbler roller follows behind the tines to pick up the ripped sections of soil, which helps to break up clumps and increase the looseness of the soil. This adds even further benefit to the plant growth, giving more opportunity for an even crop and high yields.

Read our article on MaxxRipper trials in Sunflower Cropping in Parkes: ‘Flower Power – MaxxRipper Breaks New Ground in Sunflower Crop!’

Figure 2: Modelled growth of wheat roots in sandy soil based on trial data (Delroy & Bowden 1986, Schmidt et al. 1994, Tennant 1976) assuming non-limiting moisture [2]

Good soil management practices can help avoid compaction issues. However, utilising deep ripping techniques to break up hard pans or historic compaction provides a favourable boost to yields and a good return on investment.

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Till to Kill: The Fight against Herbicide Resistant Weeds

By K-Line Ag
Published on

The use of herbicidal chemical applications in modern commercial agriculture has presented a growing world population with the food needed to meet it’s increased demand. However, the rise in the use of chemicals to combat weeds has also led to parallel increases in herbicide resistant weeds, and the need for alternative and mechanical methods of weed control.

The use of herbicidal chemical applications in modern commercial agriculture has presented a growing world population with the food needed to meet it’s increased demand. However, the rise in the use of chemicals to combat weeds has also led to parallel increases in herbicide resistant weeds, and the need for alternative and mechanical methods of weed control.

How do Herbicide Resistant Weeds Come About?

Chemical resistance results from the molecular structure of the weed’s cells changing, or mutating, as it is repeatedly exposed to low levels of chemical. These low level exposures aren’t enough to kill the plant, but they may stunt it or reduce it’s ability to produce seeds, flowers, or leaves. When this happens, the seeds it does manage to produce carry forward the mutated molecular structure, passing the resistant traits on to new generations. Within a few generations, these mutations have strengthened, making the mutant plants chemical-resistant, even at strong application levels.

Know Your Enemy

Names and types of herbicide resistant weeds vary depending on your country, continent or hemisphere, but the issues remain the same. Chemical resistance has found its way into common Australian weeds like flaxleaf fleabane, ryegrass, awnless barnyard grass, windmill grass, liverseed grass, and common sowthistle to name a few of the more well-known and ubiquitous offenders. In comparison, the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, which tracks chemically resistant weed mutations on a global scale, notes 247 species of chemically resistant plants in 66 countries.

Chemically resistant weed species prevalence and success in propagation also tends to vary based on tillage types and farming practices. Decades-long university studies in the US, Brazil and Argentina have found wind-blown seeds and annual grass seeds to be more prevalent in conservation tillage or no-till systems, annual broadleaf varieties to be more common in ridge tillage or disc tillage systems, and perennials as the predominant varieties when traditional ploughing systems were in effect. Much of this stratification of propagation has to do with the biological reserves or hardiness of the seeds themselves, which can be helpful when assessing options for combating their impacts.

Identifying the types of herbicide resistant weeds encountered in your operations is important to devising a control strategy. By knowing your weed, yo can understand its physical attributes, growing and seed production cycles, and the best methods for capitalising on its phenotypical expressions and reproduction times to interrupt these schedules with mechanical controls.

Tilling in Pre-Emergence

Pre-emergence tillage options can destroy weeds in the seed and germination stages, exposing them to surface environments and stopping or stunting their growth patterns. This delay can help give production crops the break they need to germinate (before the disrupted weed seeds) and mature into primary growth stages (like tillering or cotyledon stages), without intense competition from germinated weeds. Once production crops begin tillering or extending leaf shoots post-emergence, they’ve already developed sturdy root systems and can then better compete with stunted weeds for nutrients and moisture. Additionally, established production crop canopies can divert sunlight, nutrients and rainfall away from encroaching weeds, which further hinders their development and improves the crop’s competitive ability throughout the growing season.

Depending on the type of weed, shallow tillage surface exposure and deep tillage seed burial can have similar results on pre-emergent weed seed banks. Shallow tillage brings seeds to the top of the soil profile, where they have increased carryover mortality rates, and are more likely to be eaten by rodents or birds. Studies in the US show predation removal of seeds can account for a third or more of the total seed bank for the soil. This result is improved when paddocks are planted to cover crops that provide habitat and concealment for seed predators.

Shallow tillage brings seeds to the top of the soil profile, where they have increased carryover mortality rates, and are more likely to be eaten by rodents or birds

Deep tillage is another option for combating pre-emergent weed seeds. Tillage that puts seeds below the 0-5cm germination zone preferred by most varieties can cut germination by up to 80%. But, depending on their biological hardiness and energy reserves, seeds pushed deeper into the soil can higher levels of seed persistence, and remain viable for years after the tillage is completed.

The Role of Tilling in Post-Emergence Weeds

For post-emergent herbicide resistant weeds, aggressive, deep tillage is usually the best option for controlling the weed and ensuring more complete destruction and exposure of the plant and roots. By destroying the plant in its entirety and burying the seeds, you can simultaneously combat post-emergent plants while addressing the propagation of future generations in the seed bank. For small, shallow-seeding weeds, a single pass of deep tillage can eliminate the majority of the seed bank for years.

Post-emergence heavy tillage is particularly successful in conjunction with crop roatation and herbicide diversification. When the tillage is complete, crops are rotated, and chemical applications or sites of action change. This provides a jolt that disrupts germination cycles and gives the seed bank time to deplete naturally through predation and standard seed mortality.

The decision to till post-emergence can be difficult. Deep tillage may be thought to undo years of conservation tillage benefits, including erosion control, moisture retention and soil profile improvements through stubble integration. But as weeds become more immune to chemical interventions, it is an option more and more farmers are evaluating, particularly on an intermittent or as-needed basis, or as part of a larger crop rotation and strategic tillage plan, to avoid the escalation of herbicide resistant weeds.

Read More: Research Reveals that Never Cultivating can be a Danger

Chemical resistance is an outcome of increased chemical usage in modern farming, but it doesn’t have to have an adverse effect on your operation. By understanding the weeds you’re facing, exploiting their weaknesses, and making strategic decisions about management and tillage, you can effectively combat even the toughest weeds without impeding your production crop operation.

Chemical resistance is an outcome of increased chemical usage in modern farming, but it doesn’t have to have an adverse effect on your operation

Read More on our Series: War on Chemical Resistance

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Winning the War on Chemical Resistant Weeds

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Fleabane. Marestail. Giant Ragweed. Waterhemp. Ryegrass. Beggartick. Pigweed.

No matter where you live – state or province, country or continent, Eastern or Western hemisphere – chances are if you are a farmer, you saw a name on the list above that made you cringe. And unfortunately, you are not alone.

According to the International Survey of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds, a scientific think tank committed to identifying, cataloguing, and controlling herbicide-resistant weeds around the world, the problem is large, and continuing to grow (pun intended!). There are currently 234 species of resistant weeds in 65 countries around the world, and more are added every growing season.

How does a weed become resistant to chemicals? The answer varies with each weed type and each associated herbicide. The basic answer is that as chemicals are repeatedly applied to certain weeds, those weeds’ molecular structure changes, or mutates. These mutations mean that while the plant could still be affected by the chemical (think stunted growth or less flower, seed, or leaf production, etc.), it doesn’t die or stop producing offspring as intended by the herbicide application. Thus, the plant has the ability to pass that modified DNA structure on to subsequent generations of weeds, and the basis for chemical resistance is born.

Chemically tolerant or resistant weeds are most common in areas or countries where agriculture is industrialized. The prevalence of chemicals in modern farming practices means there are exponentially more opportunities for altered DNA replication to happen in industrialized nations, leading to an increased number of weeds showing resistant characteristics in those areas.

There are a number of approaches to avoiding or controlling the spread of chemically-resistant weeds. While the options may not be for everyone, knowing even the most basic methods for combating herbicide resistance can help slow down the problem.

Go organic

This is definitely not an option for everyone, but not using chemicals for weed control is one way to diminish resistant tendencies. Organic farmers have to use cultural, situational, and mechanical controls to fight their weed infestations. Cultural controls include things like making growing conditions unfavourable by using additives to change soil pH. Situational controls extend to things like crop rotations and companion planting. Mechanical controls encompass all types of tillage when used in weed control situations.

Optimise soil nutrient contents

Knowing your land’s soil types and that soil’s nutrient composition can go a long way toward promoting crop growth and combating weed infestation. Test your soils for deficiencies, and add nutrients customized for your planned crop. A balanced soil nutrient profile can help push crops through growth stages (germination, emergence, canopy) as fast as possible. This jumpstart makes them bigger faster, which makes it easier for them to fend off and stunt the growth of competitive weeds.

Rotate crops

Growing the same crops in the same places every year produces year-upon-year tolerance to chemicals in many types of weeds. Break up this cycle by changing the base crop, herbicide applications, and timing for each paddock. Get assistance from a local soil conservationist or government agriculture office to balance crop herbicide and nutrient needs within your farming operation.

Hit the Dirt

Zero in on problem patches and target areas of weed density by physically inspecting your paddocks. By getting at eye level with your crops and their weedy competitors, you can identify and customize applications for your paddocks’ specific problem weed types instead of constantly relying on broadcast herbicides.

Go Big, or Don’t Go

Don’t use less herbicide or a lighter concentration than what is specified by the manufacturer on the mixing label. Under-mixing herbicides actually helps to promote chemical resistance. Weakly mixed or lightly applied chemicals function in weeds like vaccinations do in people: small doses eventually build up immunity.

Select the proper seed hybrids

All seed hybrids are not created equal. Talk with your local agronomist or seed dealer to select hybrids genetically designed to be grown in your area. Localized hybrids often have traits that encourage early germination and allow them to withstand colder soil temperatures than competitive weed seeds. These hybrids can be planted earlier than most wild weed seeds can germinate, spurring crop growth while inhospitable conditions retard the growth of competitive weeds.

Insist on implement hygiene

Ever wonder why weeds seem to be more prevalent in the outside rows of a paddock, but less common further in? In many cases, it’s a matter of implement hygiene. When equipment moves from farm to farm or paddock to paddock, weeds and their seeds get transferred along with the implements. This weedy trash generally falls off the machine in the first rounds, as evidenced by the weed propagation in most paddocks. As a weed control best practice, require cleaning of implements before entering paddocks, especially if employing custom operators, and for all equipment after each growing season.

Plant for Production

Maintaining and calibrating planting equipment per manufacturer recommendations can pay back greatly when it comes to weed control. How, you might ask? Malfunctioning planter and diagnostic parts like vacuum tubes, seed plates, and monitors can give false information about seeding and fertilizer application rates. This can leave empty spots or slow growth areas in your paddocks, leaving the door open for opportunistic weeds to take over.

Make Another Pass at Weed Control

Tillage is a great way to control weeds without using additional chemicals. Paired with the other methods and tips above, passes through post-emergent crops with tillage equipment can provide soil disruption to expose or uproot weeds between rows. This in turn contributes to dehydration or growth delays in those weeds, allowing time for crops to overcome and eventually kill their competitors. Tillage also can have the additional benefit of killing non-plant undesirables, like fungi and pests, in many paddocks.

While the war on chemical-resistant weeds is far from over, farmers have a number of control methods at their disposal. Alone, these methods may not win the war, but together they make a suitable arsenal for helping farmers win key battles against chemical-resistant weeds the world over.

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Winter Seeding Completion

By K-Line Ag
Published on

Winter has set in, and with winter seeding nearing completion, it’s time to reflect on the past year and look towards the future, including the future weather patterns and yields.

Weather

Currently, overall weather[1] conditions are good across crop production areas in New South Wales and Queensland. Pockets of difficulty do exist, with farmers in areas of Western & South Australia battling dry and blowing soils while farmers in Victoria are experiencing setbacks in completing their autumn paddock work due to wet and boggy soils, but seeding is continuing well in general.

All producers should have an eye to the next growing season, however, with meteorologists forecasting a drier crop year overall in winter 2017-2018, with slightly higher than average temps. Southern and western Australia are showing the largest probability of negative impact, while the Northern Territories and eastern Tasmania are forecasted as the only areas with above average accumulations[2]. Crops under irrigation, like cotton and rice should manage nicely, especially considering the abundance of retained reservoir water, particularly in eastern areas. Dryland crops, however, could struggle if rains aren’t well timed for developmental milestones.

Yields

2016-2017[3] growing season’s grain and oilseed production were record crops, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). Total winter crop production was estimated to be 30% higher than the previous record (set in 2011-12) at 58.9Mt, with wheat crops leading the way at 35.1Mt.

However, overall global production of grains and oilseeds was higher, driving down or holding steady market prices in response to the increased availability of supply. Australian producers saw an overall increase in receipts, mainly due to volume, which pushed cash incomes higher.

Chickpea[4] prices were a bright spot as well, with some Indian crop failures and issues in marketing logistics producing a premium for Australian growers. Prices surged to over AUD$1000/tonne, setting records for the crop.

Production Forecast

2017-2018 production isn’t forecasted to be a standout, either in terms of yields or pricing, but it will still be comfortably average or slightly above for most producers. Global demand is projected to increase slightly over the next five years, with high population/increasing disposable income regions like Asia, northern Africa, and the Middle East spurring the market, which bodes well for commodity prices. Global weather patterns and yields still impact pricing, however, and keeping an eye out for potential yield bumps in the northern hemisphere due to forecasted wetter, warmer conditions will be critical to timing markets.

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You Need A Better Bed

By K-Line Ag
Published on

If the seedbed is good, the outcome will be

Mattress companies spend a lot of money telling us we need a better bed. They tout the benefits of foam versus springs versus air. The main argument is that people perform better when they’ve had a good night’s sleep in a decent bed. It should come as no surprise to feed and forage producers that the same premise works when talking about seeds! If their bed is good, their outcomes will be too.

Seedbed preparation is important

In order for seeds to germinate properly and get the start they need to produce yields at harvest, creating and preparing an adequate seedbed is critical. Seedbed prep encompasses everything from soil matrix and composition to surfacing and tillage. It’s the important work of surfacing and tillage we’ll focus on in this blog post.

One challenge when preparing seedbeds is balancing the seeds’ early needs, with the later needs of the finished crop. This is especially important for export crops like oaten hay, where production quality is determined in part by the concentration of contaminants like weeds, rocks, and soil. Finding a middle ground – no pun intended – is difficult without proper tillage and finishing implements. Seeds for cereal crops require good seed-to-soil contact in seedbeds that have a firm finish with well-integrated organic matter. Harrows and coil packers are excellent for managing weeds, rolling down rocks, and still maintaining soil contact for germinating seeds.

Suitable for use following other types of ploughing, harrows and packers are true masters of seedbed preparation. Rotary harrows help further breakup crop residues and distribute organic matter evenly throughout the soil. Packers and rollers firm up the soil strata and provide a solid base for seeding, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact and a good substrate for rooting. By focusing on retention, distribution, and assimilation of crop residues, producers can ensure the value of the matter is preserved while simultaneously maximising the seed-to-soil ratio needed for effective germination. This kind of seedbed fine tuning is difficult to achieve with ploughs alone but is critical to crop success.

Using harrows to assist with herbicides

Harrows also assist producers in managing chemical applications when utilizing a seed drill or direct seeder in conjunction with an onboard pre-emergent chemical. Extensive ground cover or existing weeds can interfere with the uniform application of popular broadacre herbicides like Treflan. Non-uniform application can in turn significantly reduce effectiveness, allowing weed escapees and damaging a crop’s long-term performance.

Incorporation of previous years’ crop residues and stubbles into the seedbed is also important in maximising the herbicides efficacy . Unincorporated organic matter can serve as a barrier to herbicides, keeping the chemicals from reaching the soil or making them unavailable for weed control via chemical binding. Harrows allow producers to keep both the soil-boosting organic matter driven by minimal till systems while still ensuring chemicals reach the soil levels where they perform best.

See our range of Harrows & Bars

Fine tune your strategy

Fine-tuning a tillage and seedbed preparation strategy can help boost production quality on forage crops like oaten hay. Utilising a harrow as part of this strategy is a good approach. This creates a seedbed that is both rich in organic matter from incorporated residues, and well-suited for planting and pre-emergent herbicide application. And just like their human counterparts, seeds perform best – and yield better! – when their bed is well-made.

We've got seedbed prep sorted. Contact us today!

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