A NEW guide five years in the making will help vegetable growers implement integrated weed management practices.
The manual was part of a larger project where researchers studied a range of non-herbicide weed control methods for their effectiveness and user-friendliness within common crops such as pumpkin, melons, potatoes, carrots and leafy greens like cabbage, broccoli and lettuce.
The team found that weeds reduced the operating profit of a sample of vegetable farms by $2090 per hectare, and it's hoped the manual and related research will lower this figure while providing a practical knowledge-base for Australia's vegetable industry.
The ongoing burden of weeds in vegetable production impacts on crop profitability by reducing yield and quality, increasing input, machinery and labour costs, and making crop management more difficult.
Lead researcher associate professor Paul Kristiansen said the 150-page manual, which is free to download, will help growers to understand current best practice and the importance of remaining diligent and strategically implementing a range of weed control methods.
"Many growers are already aware of these principles, but we hope this resource will help them to implement integrated weed management by providing comprehensive information in the one place," associate professor Kristiansen said.
"We focused on some of the most significant weeds found on vegetable farms to collate information on their ecology and impact, and to determine if particular integrated weed management approaches might be suited to certain weed species.
"We also visited vegetable farms that were having success with their integrated weed management strategy to develop case study materials."
One of the interesting takeaways was that there appears to be no single pathway to successful integrated weed management, even in otherwise relatively similar production systems.
"This is due to the diversity of crops, weed species, climate and soil types, and grower resources and experience across Australian vegetable production," associate professor Kristiansen said.
"However, we did note that growers who were diligent in their application of integrated weed management principles, and were happy to experiment with change when things were no longer working or new threats had emerged, were the most likely to have success in getting on top of their weed burden."
As the industry becomes less reliant on herbicides, associate professor Kristiansen said in many vegetable crops the range of herbicides available tends to be limited, and focuses more on control of weeds before the crop is planted, or controlling just a subset of weeds growing in the crop, such as grasses.
"As a result, it is important that vegetable growers supplement their herbicide programme with a variety of non-herbicide methods to ensure greater overall success," he said.
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