Is Winter grass wrecking your golf handicap?

Winter grass (Poa annua) is challenging the herbicide resistance crown held by annual ryegrass, with glyphosate-resistant populations being confirmed in Victoria.

Winter grass ( Poa annua ) - a prolific seeder

Winter grass (Poa annua) - a prolific seeder

Testing has confirmed at least 20 populations of winter grass exhibiting resistance to simazine (group C), propyzamide (group D), group B and group Z herbicides. Another population is resistant to the five herbicide modes of action B, C, D, M and Z.

Winter grass has previously been considered an insignificant weed however the current levels and extent of resistance are surprising. All the resistant populations have developed on golf courses.

A nice, smooth bentgrass golf green

A nice, smooth bentgrass golf green

This shows any weed can become a huge problem with changes to management or environment and grain growers should remember that present day problem weeds fleabane and sowthistle were not on the radar 20 years ago.

Winter grass from USA golf courses and sports turf has become resistant to groups B, C, D and M herbicides, while in Britain there is at least one population resistant to paraquat (L) from a vineyard.

Golf green infested with winter grass. Image: Jyri Kaapro, Bayer CropScience

Golf green infested with winter grass. Image: Jyri Kaapro, Bayer CropScience

Winter grass is a genetically diverse winter annual species that also has perennial populations. A native of Europe, it has now spread around the world, predominantly in temperate countries, but is also found infesting the sub Antarctic Islands of Macquarie and Heard.

It is predominantly a primary colonising weed of disturbed areas and is highly adaptable to heavy grazing and close mowing.

Many golf courses have now lost most of their post-emergent herbicides for controlling winter grass and now rely on pre-emergent herbicides.

Resistance is causing some turf managers to consider using winter grass as a turf species creating  a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with the managers of golf courses. While some managers try to control winter grass, others have decided they will live with it and make the most of its useful characteristics. A number of golf courses in Australia and New Zealand have replaced Bent grass greens with winter grass.

In the United States, several universities have golf green winter grass breeding programs for trying to select more perennial lines that have reasonable seed production.

Golf greens are intensively managed and this places enormous selection pressure on the plant species present. Winter grass can set seed under intense mowing regimes and the intensive use of a range of herbicide modes of action has led to this selection of resistant populations.

While more perennial lines tend to develop in cooler climates, there are populations in Adelaide that are becoming perennial and heat-tolerant. A problem with more perennial lines is they produce fewer seeds than annual lines.

For more information on winter grass

Keep up-to-date with Group M, L and I resistance

Andrew Storrie
Fine tuning narrow windrow burning

It is that time of year again when a farmer’s thoughts turn to burning. Like most things there is more than one way to skin a cat. However I am going to talk about some of the dos and don’ts for narrow windrow burning.

Although at this point you cannot do anything about chaff windrows that have already been produced what you will see is that windrows from a well set up header will have withstood considerable amounts of rain over summer and still be ready to burn. The windrow you can see below has had over 100 mm of rain between harvest and burning.

Windrows that aren't over-threshed remain open and aerated like this one.

Chaff still on top of windrow despite 100 mm rain.Things to note are that the windrow appears prickly and this shows that during harvest the straw was not over threshed. This has allowed the chaff portion to remain high in the windrow which also aids drying after rain. The crop was harvested at a height of approximately 10 cm.

Another critical factor in burning windrows is the meteorological conditions when you start burning.

Starting the burn when the FDI is about 7 which in this case was about 18:00.The use of a fire danger index (FDI) has made stubble burning more of a science than a mystical art. The FDI is determined by temperature, humidity, wind speed and dryness of the fuel. These need to be measured and put into the fire index app to calculate FDI. This means that you need a weather meter, either hand-held or cab mounted, and your mobile phone with the app installed. A very useful app for both Android and Apple is Fire Tools by Mountain Pine Studios.

Doug Smith measuring wind speed, temperature and humidity to feed into the fire app. Also use the Bureau of Meteorology’s MetEye® site for monitoring local predicted changes to wind speed and direction so you can decide whether to press on or call it a night.

This is the sort of result you aim for.As a rule of thumb for the fire index:

Greater than 15 is too high

8 to 10 is ideal

Less than five is often too cool or damp

Starting when the fire index is too high means that the file will rarely stay in the windrow and the fire will burn significant portions of the paddock. See image below.

Too low and the windrows won’t burn as hot as needed to kill weed seeds in the row.

This paddock on another property was cut a little high and the burn started when the Fire index as too high. The fire didn't remain within the rows.Important pointers from Doug & Kerry Smith, Pingrup, WA

  • Always over-estimate the problem and under-estimate your ability when it comes to fire control
  • Your aim is to burn the rows not the farm
  • Buy a good fire lighter as it makes a big difference to the amount you can light per night
  • Conditions change by the hour so keep measuring conditions as well as knowing what is coming for the next couple of days before you light up.
  • Check for smouldering rows early the next day so they can be dealt with before the day heats up.
Southern Alberta Weed workshop - Transdisciplinary approaches to better weed research and management?

In June 2016 Sally Peltzer & I attended Andina III – a 5 day weed workshop in southern Alberta organised by a range of weedies including the notable Roger Cousens, University of Melbourne and Sonia Graham, a social scientist from the University of NSW.

The workshop was held at the Gladstone Ranch near Pincher Creek, in the eastern foothills of the Canadian Rockies and was attended by 32 ‘natural’ and 'social' scientists, agronomists and consultants, from seven countries. Australians and North Americans made up the bulk of the participants.

 Gladstone Ranch homestead

This was the third Andina workshop, with the first 2 taking place in Yellowstone National Park and Spain. Each conference has had a different theme. The theme for Andina III was “the transdisciplinary approach” to weed research and management and a few social scientists were thrown into the mix.

The general principle behind these get-togethers is to fill a perceived void left by traditional conferences by fostering international dialogue, collaboration and mentoring in a relaxed atmosphere. By spending 5 days together and doing a wide range of activities trust and relationships are built between the participants which will continue into the future once everyone has returned home to their normal lives and jobs.

So what is a "transdisciplinary approach"?

This was an interesting question because we asked “what is the difference between transdisciplinarity and a good research and extension program?” This was discussed at some length, for better or worse over the five days.

Integrative multidisciplinary research is thought to address complex real-world problems addressed systemically rather than as isolated problems.  It involves harnessing scholarly and practical knowledge across many stakeholder groups such as scientists from different disciplines, private sector players, farmers, and extensionists at a range of geographic and political levels e.g. local, regional, landscape-wide.

Some of the participants in a 'break-out' session.

Multiple parties bring:

  • a wide range of knowledge to address a complex problem.
  • AND a diverse and often conflicting range of interests and views

Normally what happens in research is that researchers concentrate on research directions and objectives and tack on some publicity, such as a dry press release, or ill-planned extension at the completion of the research. This is the old top-down approach to research - we know what’s good for you so you should use our research findings....... and be grateful while you’re at it.

We tried to test the multi-disciplinary approach in southern Alberta by doing a fair amount of pre-workshop communication between workshop members as well as reading up on the issues facing the diverse range of land users in southern Alberta.

For us the most interesting case study we investigated was the Waldron Grazing Cooperative which:

  • Is a collection of commercial cattle ranches  (over 16,000 ha) under a single progressive manager
  • It is a prime wildlife corridor for bears, cougars, elk, deer, coyote and moose
  • Accesses land management funds for projects from Alberta Province and Federal Government, private donors and the co-operative.
  • Has an agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect the land in a state similar to that prior to white settlement, except running beef instead of bison.
  • Makes the Waldron Coop an outlier with other beef ranchers in the area because they are seen as different because of their size and the way they access a range of external funds. This is then seen as the major reason why they can run above district average numbers of beasts and obviously has nothing to do with the pasture and grazing management being practised.
  • Has leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) as its major weed species. Leafy Spurge is a perennial with a spreading root system that isn’t eaten by cattle and has been spreading across North America since the early 1900s.

Mike the Walrond manager’s approach

Mike, manager of the Waldron Cooperative, outlining his approach to range management.

  • Manage the grass first and the cattle second because without the grass you can’t fatten the cattle. Mike tries to emulate the grazing patterns of the bison with rotational grazing and lets the perennial grasses seed before winter to maintain species diversity in his pastures. Like in Australia most cattle ranchers set stock their pastures over summer leading to an increased density of leafy spurge, and a decline in species diversity and cattle weight gain.
  • To manage the leafy spurge Mike uses a biocontrol agent that is a root-feeding beetle. Many other ranchers have also established this beetle on their leafy spurge infestations while others use an ‘unplanned’ herbicide program in an attempt to contain weed infestations.
  • What is different with the Waldron Co-op is that they graze  sheep (leased) on the spurge as well. We were told that the reason why the combination of biocontrol and grazing with sheep works so well was that the sheep disperse biocontrol agent. Interestingly no research has been conducted looking at the influence of defoliation in combination with the root feeding biocontrol. We thought that this is probably the reason why this combination works so well not the dispersal of the beetles. This is an excellent example where a multi-disciplinary approach to a problem would have paid off rather than leaving it to biocontrol specialists.

  • It is interesting to note that there also is a VERY negative attitude towards the grazing of sheep in the general ranching community going back to the time when homesteaders moved into the Canadian rangelands leading to ‘range wars’.  
  • We thought that if you hate sheep, why not try a combination of slashing and biocontrol?

Unfortunately we did not meet any other ranchers that would be considered “typical”. The ranchers we sat down and discussed a weed management with were all organic beef growers. What all ranchers do seem to like doing is sit on a horse.

Canada has also experienced contraction of provincial agriculture departments with a reduction in production research and extension being available to landholders.

So what did we take home from Andina III?

  • Andina is a great opportunity to meet a range of international researchers and get to know them having a great time while you’re at it.
  • Multi-disciplinary approaches (which are hard to define – just read the peer reviewed papers on the subject) have merit because a number of the researchers we met did not work with anyone from outside their technical silo. Hmmmm. Several researchers said that they would not look at multi-disciplinary cooperation because it would not progress their career objectives i.e. pump out papers.
  • Multidisciplinary teams seem an obvious approach for someone with an extension/research background but was a new concept for a number of the researchers.

If you get the opportunity to attend an Andina workshop it is well worth the effort. The next workshop is in Agentina in January 2018. This time the topic will be fundamental molecular biology through to mathematical modelling. For more information go to

Which herbicide caused that injury? We put some scientists to the test.

As part of the 20th Australian Weeds Conference Agronomy Field Tour in September 2016, the tour participants tested their ability to recognise herbicide damage symptoms across a range of crops and pasture species with the trial funded by Department of Agriculture & Food WA and Royalties for Regions™. To make it not too difficult, the guinea pigs (sorry, particpants) pre-downloaded the new GRDC Ute Guide herbicide Injury app to assist them in their quest. To sharpen their wits we also made it into a competition with extravagant prizes to be had. 

Herbicide injury demonstration at Muresk InstituteAfter saying I would never ever go on another Conference field tour, I had to put my money where my mouth was when Sally Peltzer and I were approached early in 2016 to organise the agronomy tour for the Weeds Conference to be held in Perth, WA.

We had to make the day interesting so decided to base it at or close to the Muresk Institute, just outside Northam, Western Australia. This is an easy 1.5 hour bus trip from Perth.

So back to the issue of herbicide injury of crops. We know herbicide damage is caused by herbicide drift, poor sprayer hygiene, adding the wrong product or spraying the wrong paddock. So how can growers and their advisers know what which herbicides are causing the problem? They can:

  • pinpoint the herbicide and therefore hopefully decipher how it happened
  • estimate a level of potential yield loss
  • determine harvest or grazing withholding periods that could affect marketing of produce through exceeding maximum residue levels

GRDC has recently released an app to enable growers and agronomists more easily identify which herbicides are damaging the crop. Sally and I decided to establish a herbicide injury demonstration to test the Agronomy tour participants’ brains, as well as evaluate the app.

The treatments in Table 1 were sprayed across 18 crop and pasture types 15 days before the field day. No tank-mixes were used as this would have “muddied the water”.

Table 1. Herbicides and rates used in the demonstration.

Trade name

Active Ingredient

MOA Group



MCPA ester


1 L/ha

Amitole® T



5 L/ha

Verdict® + Uptake™



100 mL/ha


metsulfuron methyl


5 g/ha


urea + ammonium nitrate


50 L/ha

Atrazine + Uptake



1.1 kg/ha




200 mL/ha




40 mL/ha




0.5 L/ha


paraquat (200 g/L)


500 mL/ha


So how did the competition go?

There were 8 ‘stations’ for the contest and we split the participants into groups of 3 or 4.  We wanted the modes of action causing crop damage at the 8 stations and those in the “herbicide business” also had to name the actual herbicide to help level the playing field.

As can be seen from the photos the groups were busy competing.

Various groups busy trying to identify the 8 herbicide modes of action

What this exercise highlighted was how difficult it can be to identify the herbicide causing crop damage. It is important to not just look at the crop, but the weeds and other species and observe how they are reacting. Knowing the time elapsed since herbicide application also makes a huge difference in assessing the symptoms as symptoms change with time and dose. For example with cool low light intensity conditions paraquat (Group L) damage to cereals can look like a number of other herbicides during the first 2 weeks before desiccation has properly commenced. Even some of the 'herbicide experts' were fooled.

 Catherine Borger, DAFWA, with Kerry Harrington, NZ, and two international visitors.

Besides the fun, some great feedback has also been supplied to the GRDC to improve the Herbicide Injury app.

Rest of the day

After the herbicide injury competition Peter Vella and Dave Rogers from Hardi Australia discussed how modern spray technology, as used on their Saritor 5500, improves spray efficiency and efficacy through lighter booms and accurate height control .

The group fascinated by the high tech Hardi Saritor 5500.

Next we inspected the exhibition model of the iHSD – integrated Harrington Seed Destructor – with Devon Gilmour, McIntosh & Son, along with Ray Harrington, the inventor.

 Inventor and farmer Ray Harrington explaining how the iHSD kills weed seeds.

After lunch Andrew Guzzomi, University of Western Australia, demonstrated his selective cultivating tine. The tines are activated when the sensors detect a weed, digging it out. This shows lots of promise for low density fallow weed control.

Andrew Guzzomi explaining the complicated path to developing a new concept in tillage.Then it was back on the bus to head out to Andrew Boultbee’s farm nearby to look at his approach to harvest seed management with chaff dumps. Andrew has a number of approaches to dealing with the dumps. He sows through them and may or may not burn them depending on the season and amount of rain received. Everyone was fascinated by Andrew’s adaptation of the dump and burn approach.

Farmer Andrew Boultbee explaining how he manages weed seed production in cereal crops.

After that it was back to Perth via York.

We are pleased to say that the feedback was all positive from the day and a great deal of thanks goes to:

  • Peter Vella and Dave Rogers at Hardi Australia
  • Devon Gilmour at McIntosh & Son
  • Ray Harrington
  • Andrew Boultbee
  • Andrew Guzzomi, UWA
  • the staff at Muresk Institute, Northam, Western Australia
  • Bridget & the team from Kalyx Australia