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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
12 Weeds management Beyond the Bale Control pays but needs persistence Keeping African lovegrass under control is a labour of love involving regular, timely spot spraying, but it is unquestionably worth it, say Shaun and Maria Beasley Shaun Beasley with a sprayed-off clump of African lovegrass. S haun and Maria Beasley have managed African lovegrass on their properties through regular and conscientious spot spraying and encouraging competitive pastures. For the past 13 years this has kept the potentially ruinous weed under control on ‘Emu Park’, their 1700-hectare property near Bairnsdale, in the Gippsland region of Victoria. However, the situation on another property, the 650ha ‘Albert Park’, 27 kilometres away, which they bought in 1993, illustrates the importance of early detection and treatment. On that farm, where the level of initial infestation was higher, even 20 years of treatment has struggled to get on top of the weed, which grows rapidly into large and fast-spreading clumps over the summer months. Spot spraying costs about $1400 a year in herbicide and 30 days of labour. However, managing the weed prevents a five per cent loss in carrying capacity, so the annual benefit of control is about $24,800. Shaun is a specialist Merino breeder and currently runs a total of 20,000 dry sheep equivalents (DSEs) over the two properties. His goal is to substantially increase production. While both ‘Emu Park’ and ‘Albert Park’ are run jointly and integrated into the overall sheep operation, they nevertheless have two distinct management systems. ‘Emu Park’ is primarily used for breeding, while ‘Albert Park’ is dedicated to running wethers and has a small area of cropping. On ‘Emu Park’ African lovegrass is currently under control, but remains a background risk. The weed has been present at ‘Albert Park’ for longer and is widespread. Shaun’s first experience of African lovegrass occurred when he bought ‘Emu Park’ during the mid- 3-D WEEDS MAnAGEMEnT AWI, together with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), is releasing a series of weed-management guides and case studies. These outline the three key steps for managing weeds in a grazing system: l deLIberATIon – taking stock to determine where it is and how dense it is (early detection is best), plan strategies to decide what you can realistically achieve and how you will go about it; l dIverSITy – using several tools together to weaken and kill the weed and prevent it from establishing, or to manage the impact on your enterprise; and l dILIgence – persist with your strategy to do it right, on time, every year; pay careful attention to entry sites and quarantine to prevent the weed from entering and establishing. These ‘3ds’ of weed management in grazing systems can help reduce the costs of weeds. They focus on implementing a program of weed management, rather than just spraying the weed when it appears. In fact, a pasture that is competitive at the right time can stop many weeds from establishing in the first place. careful planning and timely use of several weed and pasture-management tactics are the keys to cost-effective weed management. There are separate weed management guides, with case studies, for each of the following weeds: l serrated tussock; l chilean needle grass; l African lovegrass; l Paterson’s curse; l silverleaf nightshade; and l Onopordum thistles (Scotch thistle, Illyrian thistle). More information: the 3d weed management guides are available from the AWI Helpline, 1800 070 099 TipS for ConTrol of AfriCAn lovegrASS Shaun’s suggestions to other farmers highlight the importance of early identification and control of African lovegrass: l accept responsibility for the weeds on your own property – it’s all about self help; l learn to identify all of the weeds on your property, especially African lovegrass; l implement control measures immediately – don’t wait or procrastinate; l recognise that high fertility and vigorous perennial pastures are your best defence; l pay careful attention to those areas of the property with poorer soils, low fertility and bare ground – these are a haven for African lovegrass; l when spot spraying, glyphosate is a useful and practical alternative to flupropanate; and l seek expert knowledge and technical assistance to back up your strategy and ensure the effectiveness of control practices – this provides much-needed confidence in decision-making. 1980s. At that time he knew nothing about the weed and was only moved to have the plant identified when he noticed that stock wouldn’t eat it. At the time of purchase African lovegrass was well established throughout much of ‘Albert Park’, as scattered mature plants. In spite of Shaun’s efforts since then to control the weed, the situation on ‘Albert Park’ remains much like it was and Shaun says it may even have worsened. “The African lovegrass infestation has been exacerbated by a combination of drought and associated increase in the area of bare ground, together with summer rainfall events, which favour the weed’s growth relative to most other pasture species,” he says. The environment of East Gippsland is well suited to the spread of African lovegrass. Soils on ‘Emu Park’ and ‘Albert Park’ are of sandy loam texture with low water-holding capacity. Rainfall is naturally quite high (more than 600 millimetres), but tends to be irregular, with a strong summer influence. Shaun and Maria have set a simple management goal for both ‘Emu Park’ and ‘Albert Park’: to maximise the productivity and profitability of the sheep-breeding enterprise, with a focus on wool production per hectare. The control strategy adopted by Shaun for African Lovegrass is one that he describes as the ‘fire brigade’ approach: that is, “when disaster strikes, do something about it”. In saying this, Shaun is quick to point out that the emphasis is on “finding out what it is, how to get rid of it, and then doing something about it.” Shaun feels that in the 1980s little was known about controlling the weed in Victoria and it was more a matter of trial and error. The choice of herbicide has represented the only change in the control of African Lovegrass on ‘Albert Park’ during the past 20 years. Shaun prefers glyphosate for spot spraying and has more recently used the higher strength formulation. Based on past experience, Shaun prefers not to use flupropanate because of the residual effect that restricts pasture growth for several years after treatment. He also found that two or three years later, the African lovegrass situation was no better. Shaun regards vigorous perennial pastures as an important defence against African lovegrass invasion. All pastures receive an annual application of 125 kilograms a hectare of superphosphate and are being sown to perennial-based pastures. Kikuyu is especially competitive with African lovegrass on the light sandy soils of the region. He is considering growing spring-sown cereal crops, such as barley, and dual-purpose winter wheat, before sowing improved perennial pastures. A further management change being contemplated on ‘Albert Park’ is to implement a planned rotational grazing program of the wethers over summer. ú PHOTO: BRAD COLLIS
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08