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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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