The future of weed detection - putting it into practice - Podcast Transcript

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The future of weed detection - putting it into practice


Tanja Morgan: Hello and welcome to the MSF Farm Talk podcast. I'm Tanja Morgan, and today we've got a guest that we've had on the show in the past. We're joined by Dave Keetch, who's the field Development Officer for NuFarm. Welcome, Dave. Great to have you on the show again.

Dave Keetch: Great to be back. Last's time we were at the Kyalite pub having a cold beer. It's probably a little bit early in the morning.

Tanja Morgan: It's a little bit early for a beer today.

Dave Keetch: Happy to be here.

Tanja Morgan: Excellent. So today's topic of discussion is around th e second Agrifutures day we're having on weed at technology and we're actually going to get out in the field this time and talk to a couple of growers who, one's just got into weed at technology. One's had a weed at for a while, but we thought we'd pick your brain about some of the herbicide considerations people need to be thinking about going into this season.

Summer spraying and how to get the most out [00:01:00] of your weed at technology or your optical spot spray technology to get the best summer spray result. Given that we are coming out of a pretty wet spring and summer season for a lot of people.

So to get started, what are the things that people need to think about when it comes to setting up their optical spot sprayers this year?

Dave Keetch: I think initially when you think about what are some of the advantages to using that technology, you initially go uh, a cost saving reason. So you could take the approach of, I'm normally doing a broadcast spray for my summer spray with glyphosate 2,4-D type mixture, and you could certainly continue to do that mix in the optical spot spray technology.

But I think the real advantage comes from being able to use alternative chemistry or higher rates of alternative chemistry or higher rates. Of current chemistry and getting a really satisfactory weed control job out of that.

Yeah, it's [00:02:00] it's looking at I guess what your weed spectrum is and how you tackle that using the technology. So I think in the situation that we've come across this summer is there might actually be a lot of volunteer cereals come up you know, We've probably got to take those out before we then tackle the paddock with the optical spot spray technology. So it's a case of running around and doing a blanket spray of a light rate of glyphosate and then choosing an appropriate tank mix through the optical spot sprayer technology to take out, a week or two later, the larger fleabane, sow thistle. Et cetera.

Tanja Morgan: So I guess some people might question whether there is a place for optical spray technology in a year like this, given that so much blanket spraying needs to take place.

I guess it's a bit of a wait and see as to how many germinations we get as we go?

Dave Keetch: Yeah. I think if paddocks are really, that bad, then you might be initially doing a blanket spray. You're probably looking at perhaps four or five weeds. And [00:03:00] some of those are really hard to kill. So especially if you've got some large sow thistle that might have survived through lentil harvest.

So it's got quite a large tap root or you've got some hard to kill, like flea bane. Flea bane is always difficult to kill with a one pass application in a broadcast spray. It might be a case of going around and tidying up a lot of paddocks with basic glyphosate, 2,4-D triclopyr type brews.

And then using the optical spot spray technology at a later date to tidy up any regrowth out of those very hard to kill weeds, or further germinations of very hard to kill summer weeds.

Tanja Morgan: So it sounds like herbicide selection's going to be pretty critical because each time you're going to come back, you might be dealing with a completely different weed spectrum.

What are the main herbicides that are registered for optical sprayers?

Dave Keetch: Yeah, so Nufarm has several registrations specifically for use in optical spots spray technology. And what that means is that it's generally [00:04:00] a much higher rate of chemistry or alternative chemistry that can be used in this situation.

And that actually requires a registration. You actually need to go to the APVMA and show that using these high application rates, there isn't plant back risks or or work health safety risks to using large volumes. There is a cost involved. For being a registrant.

But there's an advantage to the grower in that, okay, if we take some examples we can use 5.5 liters of Crucial glyphosate through the optical spot spray technology. So a super high dose that you know, particularly when you get several nozzles firing at once, you actually can get triple overlap and get super high doses.

Other examples would be very high rates of Amide Advance. Four liters of Amide Advance. Alliance, so that's Paraquat an amitrole, high rates of Paraquat. [00:05:00] So yeah there's several options there. That you would be using rates well above what you would use in a normal broadcast spray because in a normal broadcast spray, that would not be cost effective.

So there's some good options there. An d we can utilize alternative chemistry. So probably some popular ones has been our Bif fo, which is glufosinate. So that has been very effective used in the eastern states particularly on hard to kill weeds like feather top rhodes grass, so that Biffo registration is 10 liters per hundred liters and there's not too much that survives that.

That takes out large clumps of feather top roads, grass. It's very good on fleabane and other hard to kill summer weeds. We're certainly looking at chemistry that we would never consider in a typical broadcast spray application because of cost effectiveness.

Tanja Morgan: Given that there's been such a large blanket spray program coming out of a wet spring start of a wet summer a lot of people struggling to get back [00:06:00] within that one week window that is typically recommended for optimal double knock conditions, is this an issue when you are using optical spray technology?

Dave Keetch: Yeah, you're probably talking about a situation where we would blanket spray the paddock, perhaps, let's say just to take out some volunteer cereals or volunteer legumes and, we've used a light rate of glyphosate or, something of that equivalent to, to blanket spray. And you've got some leftover, hard to kill summer weeds, let's say fleabane.

So I don't think that, I think you've still. Perhaps not treated like a double knock. You've just got to treat them as two separate applications. Your first one is just to, to take out that easy to kill green leaf material, which let's say if it's volunteer cereals, it's 600 mils of glyphosate, go over the whole paddock.

And then you've got to think about, all right, I've got to do something to take out the flea bane. I think just treat that as a separate application and do an optical spot spray technology mix that is suited to just [00:07:00] taking out fleabane. And that might be four liters of paraquat and 40 grams of Terrador.

It might be 10 litres of Biffo could be four liters of Amide Advance. We've registered Comet 400 which at four liters. It is very good at taking out fleabane. So there's, you've almost got to treat that second pass with the weed just as a pure separate spray tailored towards th e hard to kill weeds.

Which means you don't have to worry about, oh, I've got to get back in seven days, you can go and get your other jobs. and come back to that, which probably brings me on to perhaps some of the watch outs for weed, which I'm, I can talk about.

Tanja Morgan: That was my next question. Great segue.

Dave Keetch: Yes I think that the technology's great. It allows us to save money. It allows us to use alternative chemistry at high rates. I think the watch out is, that we've still got to put our summer spray practices. into consideration. And that is you know, we don't want super stressed [00:08:00] weeds just because we've got the Weed It it can still come undone if we're waiting for things and they get too big or they get really stressed t hen that's when no matter what you're putting out can unravel a bit.

So I think it is a little bit of a watch out that we don't get too complacent and. I've got the Weed It, I'm going to get all these other jobs done, and then maybe I'll go to the beach for a couple of weeks and then I'll come back and I'll do my Weed It jobs. Meanwhile, we haven't had rain for four weeks.

The fleabane is up to my knee and is flowering and is super stressed and isn't taking in any chemistry. So I think that is the watch out is that not to be complacent with that technology and think that it's a silver bullet in adverse summer conditions. So yeah, that's, that is something just to bear in mind.

Tanja Morgan: And similarly, I have a question about the risks of inversion with Weed It technology too.

Dave Keetch: Yeah, regardless of whether we're using a broadcast spray or optical spot spray technology. So the labels still [00:09:00] state not to spray in inversion conditions whether you're using either or. So legally you shouldn't be using an optical spot spray technology when there's an inversion present.

What can we expect to happen, like still expect. and inversions possible. And whether it's, whether you're using two four D or glyphosate or paraquat through the optical swab spray, we've still got to keep that application on our own paddocks. I would stick to what the label says and that says, don't spray inversion conditions.

Tanja Morgan: Good advice. when you've got a large spray program and, and lots of spraying to do the daytime temperatures that might not be optimal for spraying, also reduce your window for application. Good to keep that advice in mind.

Dave Keetch: There is obviously a risk of inversion conditions, even with a Weed It. That label is still stating not to spray an inversion condition. So I wouldn't be doing it in a weed regardless.

Tanja Morgan: And another question I have here is what sort of percentage of weeds, do you think makes it worthwhile. What are you thinking there?

Dave Keetch: I think that there's a [00:10:00] point where that can be too high. So in other words, it is your cost saving benefit suddenly redundant if you're at 30% coverage. So if I'm using extremely high rates of this alternative chemistry, but I'm actually putting out 30% of the paddock, then you probably don't have as much of a cost saving benefit. I guess the alternative there would be, look, I actually want to use alternative chemistry to to get a control job on hard to kill weeds. So I guess it's why using a Weed It, it's not just about cost saving. It could be for other reasons. I would say there's probably, no number too low. In

other words why let anything rob the soil of nutrients and moisture, if it's, even if it's 5% and it's fleabane.

We don't really want to let 5% of that paddock set seed and then have a seed bank full of fleabane or sow thistle or whatever. So I don't think the number is too low. I think [00:11:00] whether you, if it's too high, that's probably an individual's choice about whether they're doing it for cost saving or for other reasons.

Tanja Morgan: One question I have is about additives and if you are using high rates of herbicides with an optical sprayer, how important are they?

Dave Keetch: Yeah, I think the great thing about that technology is that we can simplify our tank mixes. So I'm struggling to see a need where, you know, using some of those unique registrations that we don't need to use additional wetters or LI700.

I would probably still, always use ammonium sulfate in summer conditions. That's probably the only one. I think the only other scenario is Terrador is registered and that does require an oil adjuvant for where we're using just high rates of Crucial or Amide Advance or high rates of paraquat Alliance, we don't need additional wetters or oils. Just the ammonium sulfate.

And that includes hard to kill weeds, like flea bane.

Yeah I think then that's the great thing about the technology is that [00:12:00] we, yeah, we don't need to make a complex tank mix to get the job.

Tanja Morgan: Alright, so for people out there listening and would like to know more information, MSF is actually holding a second Future weed detection day, which will be happening out in the field. And you'll be joining us on the 21st of February at Geranium and Lameroo in the SA Southern Mallee.

So if anyone's got questions like that we'll tackle those in way more detail on that day. And also we'll have some demonstrations on the day and talk to some growers who have actually been using that technology.

Dave Keetch: Yeah, I think that'd be a great day. I mean, like, where do you go to find out what herbicides to use in each scenario?

I think Nufarm has as good internal resources. The other is what have others been using in practice, so we'll get a chance to discuss both. I'll try and run through all our registrations and, show some good examples of what has been put in practice. But yeah, we'll also get to chat to others and see what they've been doing as well on the ground.

So that's the best way to learn.

And as always, MSF [00:13:00] will be covering the day. So if you can't make it we hope to bring you some more information down the track.

We now take you to the Future of weed detection putting it into practice field day. Stick around as we have a chat to Ben White and Dave Keetch and find out what were the top questions people had from the day.

Tanja Morgan: So we're coming to you today from the Future of weed detection, putting it into practice, field day, if you like. We're, at Geranium. We've been looking at a weed at spray this morning, and I've got Ben White with me from, Kondinin WA, he's a research engineer and he's been helping us facilitate the day looking at what are the things to think about when putting spot spray technology into practice?

Welcome, Ben. So good to have you here from the West.

Ben White: Yeah, thanks Tanja. Fantastic to be here.

Tanja Morgan: Excellent. Just thought we've, we've had the workshop this morning, but just wanting to go through a bit of a summary of what we covered in your mind, what are the key things that people [00:14:00] need to think about when they're, when they've got their new weed at home and they're about to start putting it into practice?

Ben White: Well, I think we probably could even step back a step and, and say, you know, what were the things they went through in terms of both, you know, just due diligence and make sure they had the right gear, had a machine that was fit for purpose, and, and also the economics. Making sure that they had done their sums and made sure that they know that, the piece of equipment they're planning on using is going to do the job for them.

I think, as you say, then we stepped into, you know, once you've got it. What are the considerations? And, and we talked a lot about, you know, both maintenance and I guess the technical aspect of, you know, selective spraying that might be different to regular blank blanket spraying. And, and yeah, there are some differences and I think,, what was great today was that we had some growers here that actually are running, selective spreading systems and, and we're able to sit down and, and sort of really get into the nitty gritty, some of the problems or issues that they've had and also how they've worked through them and, you know, how they've been able to get the most out of their machines. I think that's been really valuable.

Tanja Morgan: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of interest in the [00:15:00] technology and, you ask people to put their hand up, what's one of the biggest limiting factors to implementing?

Everybody wants to go that path, but it's cost. Yeah.

Ben White: Cost. It's the cost of machinery. Yeah, that's right. And, and I think probably, you know, one, one of the points, um, that was raised today was that. Yeah, aside from the, the economics that, that sit around this, you know, potentially in the future there, there may even be some regulatory issues that, that we may need to implement this technology for.

But at the moment, you know, upfront capital cost is what everyone is, is probably concerned with. And I think that probably comes back down to the individual operation, both in, in scale, cost of chemical used, you know, the sort of weeds they're targeting, the crops that they're target. Crop residues, they're targeting them in.

And I think probably that's going to be different for everyone. So, you know, for the individual to sit down and do the numbers, it's probably going to resolve that cost issue, I think. And then, you know, they'll be able to pull the trigger on, a selective spraying system that matches their, both their infield requirements and also their budget.

Tanja Morgan: [00:16:00] And we thought there might be, coming out of a wet sort of spring summer season, there might be increased demand for a Weed It, but it turns out that, you know, blanket spraying may actually take out the need for a Weed It this year. Some of the comments we're getting from the. They're not using it as much as they thought they might.


Ben White: And look, that's going to be, it's going to be horses for courses. There will be seasons where that probably is the case. There wi ll also be seasons where, you know, this, this year we might be seeing sort of 30 to 50% coverage in some paddocks and other years it'll be 10%. And, you know, depending again on the, the cost of the chemistry, we were applying the, economic case, if you like, for putting that machine in the paddock, or at least making the initial investment, can definitely stack up. So yeah, we've got to work on the law of averages with, with some of this stuff. And admittedly, the technology's come a long way. And we just mentioned today that, in the 10 year period, and that's all that they've been around for, In more commercial sort of sense.

Uh, they've come a [00:17:00] long way, so, you know, they'll probably continue to do that but I think, with that, maybe the cost will come down or integration will be, um, probably more prevalent and, you know, with the OEMs as well. So, yeah, a bit of a watch this space as well.

Tanja Morgan: Well, we’ve come a long way in 10 years.

Where are we going to be in another 10 years? You're heading over to Agri Technika later this year.

Ben White: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, and I think, you know, we're talking here predominantly about, green on brown, and, Spraying weeds in residues and make sure that we preserve as much moisture as we possibly can.

Where are we going to green and green is what everyone's talking about and, and where that's going to is, happening at a blinding pace and people are throwing a lot of cash at it, so there's plenty of commercial operators that have got machines in fields working That technology now all comes down to how good the algorithm is and, and the machine learning that sits behind it really. So yeah, it'll be great to see what happens.

Tanja Morgan: It's crazy, isn't it? Green on green technology in an autonomous sprayer and, um, the farmers can stay here and, enjoy their beer and BBQ longer.

Ben White: Yeah, exactly. And, that's where ultimately we've got to go. We have pressures on, labor and we've got pressure on the [00:18:00] economics of some of this stuff.

So yeah, it makes perfect sense. If you can make that business case stack up, then why not?

Tanja Morgan: Yep. Well look forward to hearing what you find when you go overseas later this year. Thanks very much for joining us today. It's been great to have you in the Mallee again. It's been a great pleasure to be here.

Thanks, Tanja. Great.

Changing tack a bit now, I've got Dave Keetch here and, pulled him away from from the barbecue and the chat with a couple of farmers. Just to get a bit of a summary of what we covered today. What were the key things people were asking at today's event?

Dave Keetch: There was a focus on the agronomy basics, and I guess I covered it in you know, in a conventional broadcast spray, we still need to consider weed size, weed stress, and that's still a consideration through optical spot spray technology. And, although it probably allows us by utilizing alternative chemistry to, to pull down bigger, weed. So, and that was probably the other interest is, you know, what alternative chemistry is available to us, that we can utilize to pull down a spectrum of weeds that [00:19:00] are often hard to kill.

Tanja Morgan: But the key message is really, you don't have to overthink it. Yeah, we can just keep it simple.

Dave Keetch: So the unique registrations allow growers to just utilize higher rates, of chemistry whether that be extremely high rates of 2,4- D or glyphosate or alternative chemistry found in Biffo, which is glufosinate. So, yeah, there's quite a bit of interest. I think there was a tendency to, in this part of the world to use paraquat, predominantly through the system. And so there was an interest in how could we broaden the spectrum of paraquat, and that's where the discussion of tank mixing Terrador, for instance, would allow growers to pick up a few more weeds through the optical spot spray technology, but that's probably about as complex as I would make it.

They don't need to be complex tank mixes. They are one product. Or perhaps two, in that situation.

Tanja Morgan: Yeah. But really important to stick to the label rate recommendation. You had some slides up there [00:20:00] before where people had cut in half, even like, you know, five Litres of a product was not as good as the 10.

Dave Keetch: And that was the feedback from, those in the room that had used it where perhaps used quite light rates that you would use in a broadcast situation. You got to remember that those nozzles only fire up a 0.1 of a second. They are really designed to utilize, higher rates of chemistry.

So yeah, stick to those unique label, registrations and what's recommended on those.

It was a really good discussion and, I learned as hopefully they learn from me. So yeah, that's great. It's good to hear people's experiences and what their local, issues are from a weed control point of view

Tanja Morgan: Weed issues that came out today was mainly fleabane, wasn't it?

Dave Keetch: It was all the usual suspects,

Tanja Morgan: Skeleton weed.

Dave Keetch: But it was interesting the comments about silver leaf nightshade. So there are a couple of chemistries there that would be really useful that, would be cost prohibitive in a blanket spray [00:21:00] situation, but being able to use high rates of, for instance, Trooper 75 over silver leaf night shade would be, incredibly effective.

Tanja Morgan: It's great to have you back out here in the Mallee talking to some farmers and I think they got a lot out of it today,

Dave Keetch: Had a great time. Thank you.

Yeah, we've got a useful tech guide that goes into some of the basics of the agronomy and then outlines the registrations that we have unique to Nufarm.

Tanja Morgan: Fantastic. That'll go on the show notes. So thanks again for joining us.

Dave Keetch: No worries. Thank you. The Future of weed detection day -putting it into practice, was brought to you by Agrifutures Australia.

Thanks for joining us. If you want to hear more like and subscribe to the MSF Farm Talk podcast. Catch you later.

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