Recipe farming

5 November 2023 by
Seed Terminator, Kelly Ingram

I’m not a very creative cook.

I have about four dishes in my repertoire, and I tend to rotate through them when it’s my turn to cook.

Boring? Yes. Creative? No. Risky. No.

My wife, on the other hand, loves to mix it up, discovering new dishes, and often ”improving” on the recipe with a few experimental variations.

Sometimes it works.

And other times, not so much. Like the time she was convinced that tinned sardines would be a great addition to her breakfast cereal.

Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Weeds love predictability.

They love it when farmers do the same thing every year at about the same time.

Like spraying a knockdown and a pre-em herbicide in May every year prior to seeding the crop.

They adapt quickly and germinate later, to avoid the herbicides.

Of course farmers love a recipe. Who doesn’t?

They follow a recipe because it works and they make money. So it makes sense that they want to keep following the recipe that has worked for years.

Changing the recipe every year feels risky, because farmers are doing something new.

Some weeds are so clever that they even know which year they should emerge in. A weed like brome grass, that thrives in the cereal phase of the rotation, has somehow worked out that if they come up every second year, when the predictable cereal rotation happens, they are a better chance of surviving. 

What could we do to confuse this brome grass? Throw in a double break crop once in a while perhaps. Vary the seeding time. Chemically fallow in a dry year. Grow an Imi tolerant wheat.

Many of our grass weeds including ryegrass, brome grass and barley grass are now more dormant, and will germinate later in the season. The genes for dormancy are actually pretty common, much more common than herbicide resistance genes, so the weeds found it pretty easy to make this adaptation.

These weeds are clever enough to work out that if they germinate a bit later in the season, they won’t be hit with a knockdown and the pre-em herbicide will be wearing off by the time they come up.

The disadvantage for the weed however, is that if they do adapt to germinate late, they will be germinating in a competitive crop, rather than germinating at the same time as the crop.

And they now have a shorter season, so they need to flower and set seed quickly.

Harvest weed seed control is awesome for late germinating weeds. The weeds will need to grow upright to get some sunlight, so the seeds are high in the canopy, and they’ll be late setting seed. This all improves the chances of getting the weeds seeds into the front of the header.

And, if you want to mix it up a bit, why not windrow (swath) some of your crop? Windrowing brings harvest forward and the weed seeds stay in the seed head in the windrow.

If this doesn’t confuse the weeds, nothing will.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to say that if we use a Seed Terminator every year, the weeds will adapt to avoid going in the front of the harvester.

While we haven’t seen much evidence of this yet, it is a risk. We have farmers who have used chaff carts and windrow burning for over 20 years now, and their weeds are still growing upright and are still retaining the majority of their seed at harvest. Studies have backed this up.

These studies involve growing weeds in what is called a common garden environment. Weeds are collected from various farms and are grown in a single location with the same conditions. These studies have shown some adaptation to harvest weed seed control, but not a dramatic adaptation.

But, you’re right, we should learn how to mix it up a bit when it comes to harvest weed seed control.

Windrowed barley can be super effective. We know that barley is competitive, and that the pre-emergent herbicide options are limited and have a tendency to wear off, enabling late germinating grass weeds. A competitive barley crop that is windrowed and then harvested with a Seed Terminator can be an excellent part of the rotation.

Late germinating grass weeds are definitely a pain in the proverbial, but there are things that we can do to confuse the weeds.

Rather than rolling out the experimental dish to a table full of guests, try it out on your unsuspecting family first.

And before you change your farming recipe, give it a go on a small area first (or check it out at a neighbour’s place), before rolling it out over a bigger area.

Weeds love predictability, and so do farmers, because farming to a recipe reduces your risk. But if we always farm to a predictable recipe, the weeds will work it out, and they will win.

The Terminator Agronomist
Proudly brought to you by Seed Terminator 

Please note this advice is general in nature and not based on your specific circumstances.

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