Fast Facts

Scientist to help unearth knowledge on weed response to soil amelioration

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research scientist Sultan Mia will bring a wealth of experience in soils and plant biology from Australia and Bangladesh to a new Science Partnership weeds project.

The partnership between the department, the Soils West Alliance and The University of Western Australia (UWA) is examining the impact of soil amelioration on weed ecology and control.

Soil amelioration has gained great interest in the Grainbelt over the past decade, including lime incorporation, burying repellent soils and disrupting compacted soil, however, relatively little is known about its impact on weeds or the weed seed bank.

Dr Mia will be working alongside department project lead Catherine Borger and Gaus Azam with grower groups on a series of field trials to better understand how soil amelioration techniques alter weed dynamics.

This includes the impact of soil renovation on weed emergence, growth, seed bank ecology and crop-weed competition.

“The research will give us a good insight into how key weed species respond to soil amelioration, in terms of altered soil physical and chemical characteristics,” Dr Mia said.

“It will also inform how soil disturbance influences weed seed burial, seed degradation, the longevity of the seed bank, weed emergence patterns and the response to pre-emergent herbicides and fertilisers.”

The project will also link with another Science Partnership project to examine how soil amelioration alters crop disease pressure and weed competition during the season.

The result will be a package of updated Integrated Weed Management strategies to better manage the timing and application of soil renovation during the year and in crop rotations to optimise long term weed control.

Dr Mia will be able to draw on his previous work with department research trials in the Grainbelt, which examined the impact of soil amelioration on yield of wheat, canola and barley crops, as well as his PhD studies at UWA.

“My thesis was on the root architecture of wheat germplasm and explored how it varies in acquiring water under reduced soil moisture condition and how that affects grain traits and yield,” he said.

“I also have an Honors and Masters degree in agricultural science, from Bangladesh Agricultural University and worked for the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute as a scientific officer.

“During my PhD at UWA, I visited several farms in the Grainbelt, including the UWA future farm, which motivated me to join soil research at DPIRD.

“My combined background in plant biology and soils research drew me to this new project and I’m really looking forward to working with growers to develop new approaches to using soil amelioration as an Integrated Weed Management strategy.”

The dryland farming systems of the WA’s vast central Grainbelt is a long way from the intensive cultivation of the comparatively small irrigated Bangladeshi plots, which can produce two to three crops per year.

“Weed control in Bangladesh usually starts with land preparation and tillage and then, after sowing, farmers use mechanical methods rather than herbicides – although chemical control is becoming more popular these days,” Dr Mia said.

“About eighty percent of arable land is sown to rice, while maize is taking over from wheat as a preferred rotation and some vegetables may also be grown.

“It is a very different farming system to WA’s but I hope my experience and background will bring a useful perspective to the project and help farmers learn more about how best to manage weeds after soil amelioration.”

SoilsWest co-director Frances Hoyle said the weeds project would add value to the ongoing soil amelioration research and assist the development of a comprehensive farming system to aid crop productivity and profitability.

“Soil amelioration has shown to be a valuable tool to address a number of soil constraints and it is important to have a thorough understanding how it influences weeds, crop competition, as well as crop disease pressures,” Professor Hoyle said.

“This Science Partnership project is an important part of the package to optimise the benefits from soil amelioration and weed management strategies.”

Picture caption: DPIRD research scientists Dr Sultan Mia (left), Dr Catherine Borger and Dr Gaus Azam are working on a Science Partnership project with The University of Western Australia examining the impact of soil amelioration on weed ecology and control.

Source: WA DPIRD

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