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New weed control options in focus at Toowoomba forum

Michael Walsh. Image courtesy of GRDC
Director of Weed Research from the University of Sydney Professor Michael Walsh was in Toowoomba as part of a joint Queensland and NSW weeds forum. Leading researchers from the grains and cottons industries were involved in the two-day event, which looked at new weed control options and future research. Photo: GRDC

Laser technology, electrical weeding, harvest weed seed control and using crop competition to manage problem weeds were just a few of the options under scrutiny as part of the Northern Region Weeds Forum held in Toowoomba.

More than 30 leading weed researchers from Queensland and New South Wales were at the two-day annual forum, which focused on the latest Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project investments in weed management options for the grains industry.

Organiser Michael Widderick, the principal weed science researcher from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), said the forum was a critical opportunity to share findings in a way that encouraged a complementary, collaborative and efficient approach to further research.

“This is the third time we have held a forum like this involving leading researchers from both Queensland and New South Wales and it has proved a very strategic and valuable way to compare ideas and outcomes from current projects,” Dr Widderick said.

“This sharing often instigates further investigation and also offers the group insights into what work is under way and what is planned for the immediate future.”

Director of Weed Research from the University of Sydney, Professor Michael Walsh, who was a joint organiser of the forum, said weeds were a major issue for the Australian grains industry and the increasing issue of herbicide resistance was making alternative management solutions a high priority.

Dr Walsh said a comprehensive study commissioned by the GRDC found the overall cost of weeds to Australian grain growers was $3.3 billion annually.

“On average, weeds are costing Australian grain growers $146/hectare in expenditure and yield losses. Average expenditure on weed control, including herbicide and non-herbicide practices, is $113/ha,” he said.

“Developing integrated management approaches that work, as well as investigating alternative new technologies are vital components of current research.”

Key topics on the agenda at the Northern Weeds Forum in 2018 included: using crop competition to suppress weeds; how cover crops can bolster weed control; the latest data from the herbicide surveillance survey; and engineering control options.

GRDC Crop Protection Officer North, Vicki Green, said the annual forum attracted the best and brightest researchers in weed control and management and effectively helped deliver proven advice to grain growers and agronomists.

“Weeds are a significant cost to grain growers every year and the GRDC recognises and understands that,” she said.

“The organisation is committed to investing in research and development that helps deliver enduring profitability for grain growers, whether that is through reduced input costs, or yield gains from effective weed suppression.

“This forum is an important part of facilitating that as it brings researchers together from various institutions throughout GRDC’s northern region to encourage a collaborative, cross-functional approach to weeds R&D.”

Mrs Green said 2018’s event also included researchers from the cotton industry, which gave the forum a broader perspective in terms of understanding weed impact and where research investments should be directed across agriculture.

“Weeds are an issue for both the grains and cotton sectors and many of our growers are involved with both industries, so it is important to understand the implications across whole farming systems.”

Source: GRDC

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