Monthly Archives May 2019

2019 has seen FFN partner with Charles Sturt University to provide FFN members with access to a series of the University’s studies directly relevant to young farmers. This second study looks at Integrated Weed Management. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.

Why does integrated weed management matter?
A key focus of research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is integrated weed management to reduce dependence on herbicides and boost returns to grain growers.

The Centre, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), has a long history of weed science research.

For the past 25 years herbicide resistance testing at Charles Sturt has evaluated specimens sent in from around Australia.

Charles Sturt Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley said the testing has shown the trends in herbicide resistance over time.

“Our work has identified the first resistance in ryegrass to glyphosate and to triflualin, and in wild oats to mataven,” Professor Pratley said.

“It is clear that weeds have responded to farming practice and there is a need to have diversity in management practices so that one control measure does not encourage a weed to proliferate.”

The growth of no-till and conservation farming has also led to a different cohort of weeds, particularly in the summer fallow. Changes in climate are also creating weed problems not before seen in some areas, for example fleabane in southern Australia.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) invested in Graham Centre weed research focused on not only managing herbicides for weed control but seeking out non-chemical measures to reduce dependence on herbicides to preserve their efficacy for longer.

Competitive crops to beat the weeds
Research is examining the mechanisms and traits that make certain cultivars or genotypes of wheat, barley and canola better at suppressing weeds.

Professor Leslie Weston said one mechanism under study as a means for effective weed suppression is the ability of plants to exude chemicals into the soil around the roots, or root exudation, as a defence mechanism against competition from neighbouring plants.

Other cultivars effectively suppress weeds due to competition for resources such as water, nutrients and sunlight due to their early vigour, both above and below-ground, and their canopy or root architectural traits.

Key points:

  • The research into wheat and barley genotypes has found that crop height and vigour are important early in the season for competitive crops and subsequent weed suppression.
  • Before flowering, certain crop cultivars can release significant quantities of allelochemicals from an actively growing root system which contribute to plant defence against pests, including weeds.
  • Tillering characteristics, both above and below the ground, along with canopy and root architecture are also important for the crops ability to out-compete the weeds.
  • These characteristics may also improve the yield potential by providing greater access to moisture and nutrients.

It’s hoped the findings can be used by plant breeders to incorporate these weed suppressive traits into more commercial grain cultivars.


Weed suppression in the summer fallow
Another area of research has focused on the role of crop stubble and residue on weed suppression over the summer.

The research is examining both the physical or mulching impact but also the chemical interactions including the change of nutrients and metabolites in the soil.


Key points:

  • Heavy stubble suppresses the establishment of weeds
  • Leave the stubble for as long as possible
  • Disc planters are one way to be able to manage heavy stubble loads


Cover crops provide options in mixed farming rotations
Graham Centre research in the south west slopes of NSW has examined the role of cover crops in suppressing winter weeds.

The research over three-years has examined annual legumes like sub clover, bladder clover, gland clover, serradella and biserrula, and mixtures of pasture species including lucerne, phalaris and cocksfoot.

The research assessed the impact on weeds including barley grass, sow thistle, poppy, ryegrass, fumitory, capeweed and Paterson’s curse.

It found the rapid establishment of pasture species, as well as optimal production of biomass, contributes to suppression of winter weeds.

It also suggests that newer varieties, like the hard-seeded annual legumes biserrula and serradella are able to supress competition through the release of chemicals and interactions with soil microbiota.


Key points

  • Variety and species selection is important
  • Careful grazing management of cover crops is needed to ensure there is enough biomass to out-compete weeds for resources like water and sunlight
  • Research aims to understand the chemical mechanisms that help some of the newer varieties of annual legumes to suppress weeds


Further reading:
‘Cropping practices influence incidence of herbicide resistance in annual ryegrass (lolium rigidum) in Australia’ published in Crop and Pasture Science
‘The weed suppressive ability of selected Australian grain crops; case studies from the Riverina region in New South Wales’ published in the journal Crop Protection.
‘Performance and weed suppressive potential of selected pasture legumes against annual weeds in south-eastern Australia’ published in the journal Crop and Pasture Science.

Graham Centre plant systems research pathway leader Professor Jim Pratley:
Charles Sturt Herbicide Resistance Testing Service Dr John Broster:
Plant Interactions Research Group Professor Leslie Weston:

Inspection of weed research trials at the Graham Centre’s annual Twilight Field and Crop Walk held in September each year


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Breaking Down Ag Business Structures

Starting up a new business, returning to a family business or simply reviewing a current business structure can be an overwhelming process. In particular, the varying business structures available to you under the lens of agriculture can come across as complicated.

Future Farmers Network and CQU Australia are pleased to be delivering a short webinar for young agriculture professionals that provides a top-level overview of Agricultural Business Structures.
Whether you’re setting up your own agricultural business or walking into an existing one, this short 30 minute webinar will give you the skills you need to understand the most common top-level agricultural business structures.

The webinar will be led by CQU Australia lecturer, Desley Pidgeon – a qualified financial planner who has worked predominately in Agribusiness banking.

The session will provide the introduction to the most common business structures in Australia, briefly touching on the pros and cons of each with a focus on tax implications within the structures.

The session will conclude with questions that you will need to consider when deciding on the best structure for your current situation and/or what you might do in the future.

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2019 has seen FFN partner with Charles Sturt University to provide FFN members with access to a series of the University’s studies directly relevant to young farmers. This first study analyses the value of hard-seeded annual legumes in mixed farming operations. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.

The value of hard-seeded annual legumes in mixed farming systems has been examined by researchers from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and these drought-tolerant pastures are already making a big difference to one Riverina farmer.

 Seven years of research at the Centre, an alliance between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), has included hard-seeded annual legumes like biserrula, arrowleaf clover, French serradella, bladder clover and gland clover.

NSW DPI soil research officer, Dr Belinda Hackney said biserrula has proved to be incredibly tough, particularly in below average rainfall years where its deep root system allows production of more forage and seed than traditional shallow-rooted annual legumes that often struggle to survive under these conditions.

“Biserrula has very high levels of hard seed and persists in the seed bank enabling it to survive a number of cropping years and regenerate on-demand without the need for re-sowing,” Dr Hackney said.

“Biserrula can be used as part of an integrated weed control strategy to help control problem cropping weeds such as annual ryegrass. It has lower palatability than annual ryegrass and sheep selectively remove it from the sward helping to reduce reliance on herbicides.

Key findings

  • Biserrula is very drought tolerant – in 2018 on 90 mm growing season rainfall, biserrula produced more than 170 kg seed/ha compared to sub clover and annual medic that produced less than 10 kg/ha.
  • Biserrula establishes readily on well drained soils of mild to moderate acidity. It is not suited to use on heavy textured, high clay content soils that may be subject to waterlogging
  • Biserrula has established well using summer, strategic dry and conventional stand-alone sowing options.
  • Under very dry summer conditions, summer sowing may be less effective due to slow rate of hard seed breakdown.

Proving its worth on-farm
Hard-seeded annual legumes have become a key part of the rotation on Mike O’Hare’s mixed farming enterprise at Beckom in the NSW Riverina.

About half the farm (900ha) has been planted to biserrula with the remainder a mix of bladder, gland and arrowleaf clovers

Mr O’Hare said “Not only is biserrula able to survive we get a false autumn break but it performs at the other end of the season too, hanging on for an extra grazing at the end. If we get late rain on a clover paddock you’ll see weeds but the biserrula out competes them, providing feed not weeds.”

Mr O’Hare said the goal is to establish the pasture in the first year to maximise seed set, the second year provides an opportunity for heavy grazing before spraying out in spring to provide a fallow break for Canola to be sown in year three. Year four will see wheat planted and then the biserrula regenerates after the cropping phase of the rotation.

The next step for research
New research, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)* is investigating the role of hard-seeded legumes used as on-demand pasture breaks in cropping rotations.

Dr Hackney says the research includes species completely new to Australian agriculture as well as those mentioned in this article and is focusing on their ability to supply biologically fixed nitrogen and reduce reliance (and associated input costs)  on fertiliser nitrogen.

Top tips:

  • Choose a legume suited to your soil type, rainfall, intended use and management needs.
  • Weed control prior to sowing is key to success in pasture establishment.
  • Don’t compromise on sowing rate. Use an appropriate rhizobia delivery mechanism matched to sowing time and soil moisture conditions.
  • Biserrula can cause primary photosensitisation in grazing animals –see this Factsheet for more information. Understanding photosensitisation in sheep grazing biserrula pastures

*This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program), the GRDC, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). The research partners include the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Murdoch University, CSIRO, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), and Charles Sturt University (CSU), as well as grower groups



Dr Belinda Hackney | Research Officer, Soils
NSW Department of Primary Industries

Photo: Mike O’Hare in a paddock of biserrula during greener times. Photo by Ted Wolfe

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