Glyphosate resistant weeds – it’s everyone’s problem!

Glyphosate resistant weeds – it’s everyone’s problem!

glyphosatelabel

Did you know that there are 513 registered herbicides in Australia that contain glyphosate? It is the most widely used herbicide in Australia, in both agricultural and non-agricultural situations.

It was 15 years ago when the first case of an Australian weed becoming resistant to glyphosate was reported. At first it was a problem for farmers who practised continuous cropping, but it’s now a problem in many different situations; including around buildings, driveways, fencelines, firebreaks, irrigation channels and even an airstrip.

A survey by Dr Christopher Preston of Adelaide University in 2012, showed high levels of glyphosate resistance in 50% of 400 weed samples taken from roadsides in five states. Resistance was found in annual ryegrass, fleabane, windmill grass and barnyard grass. This is not surprising, given the almost total reliance on glyphosate herbicides for roadside weed control in the past few decades.

Glyphosate has been the ‘dream herbicide’ for roadside weed control – it kills almost every weed, does not produce obnoxious odours that annoy the public, and has low toxicity to humans. However, that era may be coming to an end, and all users of glyphosate herbicides must seriously consider (1) ways to delay the development of resistance in weeds, and if we don’t get this right, (2) ways to control weeds in the ‘post-glyphosate’ era.

The Australian Glyphosate Sustainability Working Group suggests that you follow four steps if you suspect you have some weeds that are resistant to glyphosate:

  1. Eliminate other possible causes of the weeds surviving after you have sprayed them with glyphosate (eg poor application method, or unsuitable conditions when spraying)
  2. Contact a member of the Australian Glyphosate Sustainability Working Group for advice on how to confirm the suspected resistance
  3. Prevent the surviving weeds from setting seed
  4. If resistance is confirmed, develop a management plan for the future, enlisting the help of an expert if required

More information can be found on their website, with resistance management strategies for a number of situations, including grain cropping, orchards and vineyards, and roadsides, railways and other non-crop situations. Go to http://glyphosateresistance.org.au/index.htm

Farms are dangerous places

Farms are dangerous places

 

ambulanceOn average, 44 workers die each year while working on farms. This is 17% of all work-related fatalities in Australia, although only 3% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. In the 8 year period from 2003-2011, 71% of farm deaths involved vehicles, including tractors (26%), aircraft (13%), light vehicles (8%) and quad bikes (8%). These statistics are part of a grim story presented in a report released by Safe Work Australia early this year.

One quarter of workers’ compensation claims involved Body Stressing, including stress on muscles and bones due to lifting objects. Falls accounted for 21% of claims.The rate of injury for livestock farming was around 3 times the rate for the agriculture sector as a whole.

Dave Georg, managing Director of Smith & Georg, a business specialising in chemical safety training for primary producers, and orchardist for 26 years, says farming is a complex occupation and there are several reasons why our safety record is so poor. Firstly, farming involves a wider range of skills and also a much wider range of hazards than occurs in most non-agricultural workplaces. Many farms are also homes with children, and the dividing line between home and workplace is not always clear. Also, traditionally there has been an attitude of “Farming is dangerous and we just have to accept it”. “These are all reasons that explain our poor safety record”, says Dave, “but none is an excuse. We don’t have to accept a high rate of injury and death.” He suggests a few tips on how to create a safe workplace.

  • Start with a positive attitude. Think “I/we can make our farm a safe place to work.”
  • Before you start any job, ask yourself “What could go wrong here that could injure me, colleagues & employees?” Then make sure it doesn’t happen.
  • Look out for each other. Don’t be afraid to say to a fellow worker “Hey, wait a moment, that looks dangerous. Let’s see if we can do it differently, so that you’re safe.”
  • Remember that no job is too important or too urgent regardless of time frames, for you to do it unsafely.
  • Creating a safe workplace doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Make a list of things you’d like to do to improve safety in your workplace, and start working on those that you can afford, and which will give best return for your investment.
  • If you have a machine that is not as safe as you’d like it to be, but can’t afford to replace it, consider (1) making some affordable modifications to the machine to make it safer in the short term, and/or (2) only allowing experienced people to use the machine, and/or (3) training people to be extra careful when using the machine.

There are many resources available to help create a safe workplace. Try www.farmsafe.org.au

The full Safe Work Australia report on Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian Farms (March 2013) is available on the Safe Work Australia website

Do you fumigate stored grain?

Do you fumigate stored grain?

grainsilos

For decades we have been using phosphine-generating products (eg Phostoxin®, Gastion®, QuickPhos®, Fumitoxin®, etc) to fumigate insect pests in stored grain. Because these products are so good, we’ve been able to get away with some fairly ‘ordinary’ application techniques in the past. However, we are starting to pay the price for these practices, and some insect pests are now developing resistance to phosphine.

Add to this the extreme toxicity of phosphine gas and the number of farmers who have been hospitalised after exposure to it; and industry and regulators have realised that some things have to change!

Did you know that:

  • You MUST NOT fumigate in a structure that is not well sealed (ie not gas-tight)? There is an Australian Standard for testing whether a silo is adequately sealed for fumigation? Most grain silos on Australian farms are not well sealed?
  • You MUST NOT fumigate grain in road transport vehicles (including trucks and road hauled containers)?
  • You MUST NOT mix tablets in with the grain; they must be placed in a tray on top of the grain, or another approved container that prevents contact with grain?

Next time you use a phosphine-generating product, make sure you check the label instructions thoroughly, especially the Restraints section and the Safety Directions.

Grains Research & Development Corporation has produced an excellent series of videos and fact sheets on grain storage and fumigation. Check out the GRDC videos on the GRDC YouTube channel or search www.grdc.com.au for the fact sheets.

This fact sheet provides a great summary of how to fumigate safely and effectively www.grdc.com.au/Resources/Factsheets/2014/01/Grain-Fumigation-guide

Fighting Fire with Fire (or Fungus with Fungus!)

Fighting Fire with Fire (or Fungus with Fungus!)

fightingfungusMany of us are familiar with the fungus diseases grey mould caused by Botrytis, and brown rot caused by Monilinia. They are the target for many fungicide sprays in crops such as grapevines, strawberries and stone fruit, including cherries. As well as the health risks of using chemical fungicides to control these diseases, there are also issues of resistance to particular fungicides where they are used repeatedly in the same area.

There is a product, Antagonizer®, developed in Australia, that contains spores of the fungus, Trichoderma harzianum Td81b. This fungus does not cause disease in fruit, however it is able to colonise flowers and prevent Monilinia and Botrytis from developing latent infections that can later cause fruit to rot. The powdered product is simply mixed with water and sprayed onto the crop during flowering. This is a great example of a biological fungicide or ‘biofungicide’. That in itself is an amazing story, but wait until you read the next story!

Researchers in Finland have developed a novel way of getting spores of the Trichoderma fungus into flowers without spraying – they’ve enlisted the help of honeybees! Spore dispensers are fitted onto bee hives (see photograph), and the bees pick up the spores as they leave the hives to forage on flowers for pollen and nectar. No spraying and no potential for off-target damage; the grower just has to make sure there is always enough biofungicide in the dispenser.

Dr Katja Hogendoorn, of the School of Agriculture Food and Wine at Adelaide University, has started a research project to extend this method of application to a number of Australian crops. It will be an exciting project – watch this space!

For more information:

Help with identifying weeds

Help with identifying weeds

grdcweedapp

There’s a new tool to help us identify weeds in the field – and most of us have one in our pocket! If you have a smart phone you can download GRDC’s new app Weeds – The Ute Guide. It’s free from www.grdc.com.au/apps

It has colour photos of hundreds of weeds; plus descriptions of the weeds, when you can expect to see them flowering, and where you might find them. You can even take a photo of your weed and compare it on screen with the photo of the weed in the app. On the downside, the app only covers cropping weeds, although many of these are also environmental and garden weeds. Also, the quality of the photos is not always good, and it’s sometimes hard to recognise even common weeds by their photo. However, overall it’s a useful tool for identifying weeds.

It’s not quite as convenient as the app, but this government web site is another great resource to help you identify weeds http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/weeds/identification/index.html. It provides a gallery of high quality photos for each weed, and provides extensive information about them, including notes on control measures. It concentrates on environmental and community weeds, and misses some agricultural weeds.