Unique motorbike crop trials tour a big hit

SPRING is traditionally a time for crop trial field walks across the country’s broadacre farming areas, however the first ever motorbike trials tour was staged over three days in Western Australia last week and it proved a big hit with growers and other industry representatives.

The Adama Australia Motorbike Crop Trial Tours group during a break in the trials tour to visit Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range in WA’s Great Southern.

The unique Adama Australia Motorbike Crop Trial Tours - WA, which was held through the State’s Great Southern and South Coast regions, even attracted late interest from a group of Queensland growers who were so impressed by the idea they have since made an early booking for next year.

The tour highlighted a range of research into crop disease, weed control and growth regulation, as well as varieties, soil amelioration, nutrition and sowing systems, also being conducted by local grower groups, other agribusinesses and the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and some with funding from GRDC.

Blended with camping, wine tasting, campfire ballads, a ride up and down one of the region’s major tourist sites, Bluff Knoll, supporting local suppliers and concluding at the home of Butterfield Beef near Borden, the event was a recipe for success and some great rural bonding.

Adama Australia’s market development manager - WA, Bevan Addison, said planning for the motorbike tour and setting up appropriate trials for the event commenced in March in conjunction with agricultural consultant Graham Laslett and was also assisted by local agronomist Tim Trezise. 

The tour group comprised of about 20 motorbikes and a number of cars, with growers from Esperance around to Badgingarra keen to join the event and view the range of trials.

A barley disease trial is investigating various fungicides for control of spot form net blotch, particularly with the concern over developing resistance to triazole fungicides.

Bevan said this was probably the major disease of barley in WA and had long been treated with cost-effective triazole fungicides such as propiconazole.

“Double fungicide sprays have increased in recent years, without rotating fungicide groups, and this has caused some resistance to develop. Unfortunately, it also appears that once one triazole has become less effective, the particular population will be cross-resistant to other triazoles to varying degrees,’’ Bevan said.

He said there were various dual mode of action products available which, when used prior to resistance emerging, could help delay its onset and spread, hence it was critical for growers to start using the full range of options.

Topnotch, a new fungicide from Adama expected to be registered soon containing azoxystrobin and propiconazole, and which has shown good results against spot form net blotch and various other diseases, is being compared against several standards in the trial.

Adama has also combined with Sacoa in the trial to assess the benefits of a novel approach to disease involving Topnotch mixed with Biopest, a highly refined paraffinic oil that has fungicidal properties. Biopest can act as a preventative product when sprayed early or, when sprayed as part of a fungicide mix, can assist fungicide entry into plant as well as provide a protectant effect.

A wild radish control trial with two treatment timings at a site under heavy weed pressure is comparing the performance of different herbicides according to weed size, shading levels, crop coverage and competition.

Bevan said in the southern region, spraying had generally been undertaken at a later timing, allowing all weeds to emerge, however he said broadleaf weed competition could result in $50-$60 per hectare per week in lost yield for every week spraying was delayed.

“Weeds also become larger and harder to control, and shading of some plants results in ‘escapes’ that have been subjected to sub-lethal doses of herbicide, causing a continuous problem.’’

“There are generally lower levels of radish in Great Southern crops, however testing has shown there is actually a fairly high level of resistance in some populations.

“Southern growers should learn from the mistakes of northern farmers – they are in the box seat to avoid the same issues occurring for them. It is far better to spray early using a residual herbicide and to then spray again if needed. Small weeds will be controlled better, crop yields are improved and resistance management is much better.’’

Bikes parked up while the group listens to Kith Jayasena, DPIRD, explain the details surrounding recent outbreaks of fungicide resistance with net blotch in barley.
Riders marshall at Broomehill ready for the three-day Adama Australia Motorbike Crop Trial Tours – WA.
Adama Australia’s market development manager - WA, Bevan Addison, pictured discussing the trial investigating fungicide rotational options and sequential spraying of faba beans during the motorbike crop trials tour through WA’s Great Southern and South Coast.

The trial includes Adama’s Triathlon product, as well as its new high-powered Quadrant herbicide that has been submitted for registration. As its name suggests, Quadrant contains four active ingredients, including a high loading of diflufenican, picolinafen, bromoxynil and LVE MCPA, and, consequently, also has shown improved control or suppression of capeweed, doublegee, mallow and a range of other weeds.

A series of Adama trials from Geraldton to the Great Southern and across Australia is looking at sclerotinia in canola and new fungicides including the proposed expanded registration of Veritas, which contains azoxystrobin and tebuconazole.

Bevan said some existing standards against sclerotinia were at risk of overuse and some newer products were considered quite expensive.

“Veritas appears to be providing similar results in terms of control and yield response and would be a very economical proposition for growers at around $24/ha. Hopefully it will be registered in time for next year’s spray season.’’

He said it was also often observed that fungicide spraying provided a yield response even where little sclerotinia was present.

“This may be due partly to some suppression of some background, low level diseases, as well as the strobilurin effect on the crop. Some plots in the trials hold on and are greener longer than others. These are difficult to quantify, but results in many trials show similar trends.’’

Another series of demonstrations featuring Veritas is investigating fungicide rotational options and sequential spraying of faba beans.

Bevan said faba beans had been a “hit and miss crop’’ in WA for various reasons including difficulty controlling wild radish, lack of suitable soil types and poor fungicide regimes previously. However, a range of fungicide options are now available, including older multi-site, contact style products such as mancozeb, as well as newer translocated products.

“Timely spraying of disease was also difficult in the past in the Lower Great Southern, however now with more growers having their own, high-lift self-propelled booms, the ability to spray quality products in a timely fashion has never been easier,’’ Bevan said.

He said growers needed to spray three to four times depending on the season and the amount of faba beans grown locally.

“The more beans grown in an area, the greater the environmental inoculum level and, hence, disease risk. Under this multi-spray scenario, it’s important growers mix up their fungicides to include several different modes of action.’’

“We believe it would be best to fit the residual and protectant Veritas, currently under evaluation for use in grain legume crops including faba beans, as the first or second spray in programs. It could be incorporated with the older style, surface-protectant fungicides as part of a sustainable rotation.’’

Veritas has been available under a permit for grain legume crops.

The tour also viewed a large-scale grower demonstration focusing on application of Adama’s plant growth regulator, Optex, which contains trinexapac ethyl in an emulsifiable concentrate formulation, making it highly active on crops.

Bevan said the key aim with Optex was head retention and reduced lodging risk.

“Best results are achieved when spraying at the Z32 plant stage. Often this can coincide with an early fungicide application as part of a two-spray fungicide strategy, which is usually adopted in high yielding crops, particularly barley.’’

“Spraying at this stage often improves stem strength and reduces breakage at the peduncle. Shortening of the crop and some delays in head emergence can also occur.’’

Bevan said when he checked the Optex demonstration on barley on September 26, the sprayed area was about 20 centimetres shorter than the untreated area.

He said growers who had used growth regulators in this way had also indicated easier, quicker harvests and, depending on harvest and subsequent seeding systems, further efficiency gains could be achieved due to less stubble.

Following the success of Adama Australia’s motorbike crop trial tour, the company is looking to hold another event in WA next year and is also attracting interest from other States.

(This article originally featured in the November issue or Rural Business Magazine and Farm Weekly.)

 

Kojonup grower Gordon Coleman chats with the group about the sclerotinia trial on his property, flanked by Dror Dagan (left) and Bevan Addison, both of Adama.