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Episode 1: Tackling Weeds Together Series | How we’re tackling weeds together

May 19, 2020 - 5:18 pm

Dr Rick Llewellyn (CSIRO) chats with Tegan Buckley (Mallee Sustainable Farming) about an exciting new project that MSF is involved in! New project called ‘Area Wide Management for cropping systems weeds, investigating the weed management, social and economic opportunity’ aims to take a new approach to weed management. Listen to the episode to learn more about how we can tackle weeds together!

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – Hello and welcome back to the MSF Farm Talk podcast, I’m Teagan Buckley from Mallee Sustainable Farming. In this episode included in our Tackling Weeds Together Series, I catch up with Dr. Rick Llewellyn from CSIRO to chat about an exciting new project that MSF is involved in. Rick’s a senior principal research scientist, specializing in ag systems and a research group leader based at the Waite campus in Adelaide. Rick’s also been an MSF Director since 2006, G’day Rick and welcome back.

RICK LLEWELLYN: – Thank you.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – So in this episode, we’re discussing area wide management of weeds, this is a new project in the Sunraysia area, but it’s part of a wider project funded by Rural R&D for Profit and the GRDC and Cotton RDC. Rick, can you provide us with a little more information about the area wide management of weed’s project?

RICK LLEWELLYN: – I certainly can, this is an interesting project this one, it comes funded by the Federal Government largely, but we’re lucky to have GRDC and Cotton has major partners and Wine Australia also getting involved and it covers an area of weed management that often gets forgotten. And that’s the potential for weeds to spread across cropping regions and we know that weed management is most important at the farm level or the paddock level. You’re generally managing your own weed issue, you know, in a paddock. But we also know that that weeds do move around and not just weeds, but also pollen and therefore resistance and other things. So this is looking at, taking a different look at weed management and looking at what can we do to reduce the spread of weeds from one industry to another, from one farm to another, from public land on to farm land and to do that you really need a wide range of partners, a lot wider range of partners than what you’d normally have in a project. So here we’ve got not just cotton and different industries, but we’ve got councils getting involved in the different regions and we’ve got regions in the Riverina, around Griffith as well as the Darling Downs, cotton growing country, as well as Sunraysia, where you’ve got a lot of farmers dealing with new neighbors, such as the almond industry, the grape industry and other horticulture. So, it’s tackling this sort of new frontier, I guess, of where you’ve got cropping, rubbing up against other land uses including the standard land uses such as grains, but also council land and things like that.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – Yeah, so the project is working in three regions, as you’ve mentioned, including the Sunraysia region, which involves MSF. Rick, what sorts of activities will our farmers be seeing in the area?

RICK LLEWELLYN: – Yeah, well once the trial work gets underway you’ll be seeing work going on looking at managing some key weeds and we’ve done a lot of consultation already across the regions, looking at what the major weed issues that we should focus on are, we can’t focus on too many different weeds, but we’re looking at weeds that have gotten the potential to be mobile and ones that not every farmer is necessarily dealing with just yet. So, there’s concern about the potential spread and Fleabane is an obvious one, that’s the common one that’s come up right across all the regions, so you’ll be seeing some work looking at weeds like that. This will be trial work looking at better ways to control these weeds, to reduce the seed set that might lead to potential spread. But some of the work that’s got underway already, we’ve had the MSF team out collecting samples from around different target regions and that’s not just on cropping land, but also into some of the other horticultural land and other areas. And that’s testing the current level of herbicide resistance that you might find in this, important weed. But, also another element is looking at the genetics of the weeds that are sampled and we’ve got our GIS experts mapping all this and you’re able to see whether the weeds in one area have spread from another or whether they are related and they’re starting to get a better of picture of the sort of a movement of weeds we might see across the region. It’s not so important in the Sunraysia area, but for example, up around the Riverina area, that’s looking at sort of channels and how they might be carrying weeds from one farm to another, so there’s a lot of interesting work going on.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – Yeah, there definitely is. So, as you mentioned earlier, this project will be investigating herbicide resistance in Fleabane by testing plant samples from different ag land uses, what are the implications of having to manage herbicide resistant weeds?

RICK LLEWELLYN: – Well, farmers are well aware of what it means to manage herbicide resistant weeds, most farmers are already managing a different species such as Rye Grass that’s commonly resistant. But this is looking at in some cases we’re first of all, testing how much resistance there is in a weed like Fleabane and Glyphosate resistance is one obvious thing to look at there. But you’re also looking at other opportunities just to simply reduce seed set and spread of new weeds as well. So this is really a project aimed at getting different organisations, different people together to look at what can be done to reduce new weed issues, possibly even things we don’t know about yet.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – Rick, you’ve got a strong background in weeds and farming systems research, how achievable in your view is the area wide management of weeds and what do you reckon the critical success factors will be?

RICK LLEWELLYN: – Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, there’s a reason why most projects focus on farmers managing their own weeds and their own paddock and that’s because it’s not easy to get people together to manage the spread of weeds and the most important weed issues will always be within the paddock. But, in this case, you’ve got the potential to try something a bit different. I mean, we know we did some work in Western Australia about 10 years ago and the majority of farmers that was probably the case here as well, I think the majority of farmers believes they’ve gained some sort of weed issue from a neighbor or neighboring land such as from roadsides or neighboring farmland and things like that or through hay. So, we know that mobility happens, and it is quite common, so this is the chance to really tackle that. But there isn’t a good track record of area wide management really being put into place, so the big focus for us, and that’s why we’re working with groups like MSF, so you get that practical farmer input is to look at you know, what are the key factors that will really make a success? What will motivate farmers to work closely together with other industries and we’re having great success working with other industries who really want to get involved here and look at what can be done to reduce the spread of weeds across these landscapes, where you’re getting more and more different land users coming together.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – Yeah, thank you, Rick so much for your insight on this exciting project and for joining me once again on the MSF Farm Talk podcast, it’s definitely going to be interesting following the progress of this project so thanks Rick again.

RICK LLEWELLYN: – It certainly will, thanks a lot.

TEGAN BUCKLEY: – If you have weed issues and would be keen to get involved, then the project team would love to hear from you as we’re interested to find out what important weed issues our Mallee farmers would like us to tackle together. Don’t forget to share this episode with a mate, if you took some value away from it and be sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll catch you in the next episode.