Farm Ireland

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Herbicides... Precision weeding on your farm

Good record-keeping is the first and most effective line of defence against weeds

Michael Hennessy

Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30

Variety: There's a huge array of herbicides to choose from
Variety: There's a huge array of herbicides to choose from

The precision farming concept has gained more and more interest in the last couple of years.

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When I think about precision farming I think of a high-tech machine and an equally skilled farmer using the latest software that can communicate with satellites to ensure the positioning of the machine on the ground is correct to the last centimetre.

This is combined with software interacting with the machine to vary the rate of the product applied according to a pre-determined formula. Are any of these precision farming solutions useful when trying to control weeds on the farm?

There are machines which are equipped with technology that can spot the difference between weeds and the target crop.

Not just in the case of inter-row crops such as beet or vegetables, but there are also sprayers fitted with cameras that are capable of turning on and off each nozzle to deliver a selective herbicide to target individual weeds while travelling at speed.

There are plenty of farmers that would relish the prospect of a new toy like this hitting the local dealership, but the realities of the current grain price and the low margins generally clears this starry vision quite quickly. However, watch this space as technology in the near future has the potential to carry out weed mapping on certain weeds while combining or spraying.

Is there a way precision farming can be deployed for every farmer in the fight against weeds? Of course there is, but this is a low-tech precision farming solution that is affordable and doesn't need a computer degree to get it to work.

Furthermore, this precision solution can be customised to your needs but it will require intermittent attention and reviewing periodically.

It also tracks the weeds in each field, records herbicide applied in each field, monitors herbicide efficacy six weeks after application and also before harvest .

Most importantly, this technology helps you decide what herbicide to apply to each field in the future. The only draw-back is that this solution requires regular updating throughout each year.

The name of this technology is, of course, good record keeping. It might seem a bit obvious to say records are helpful for future decisions, but many farmers' records are scattered or, in some cases, non-existent.

It's good to take a mental note of a weed that is not killed by a herbicide, and it takes a little more discipline to write it down, especially in a way that you can find it next year for reference.

Use the Department of Agriculture Single Farm Payment maps to sketch out patches of problematic weeds and other general weeds in the field.

If an agronomist walks your crops, encourage them to help you fill in weed details on these maps for future reference.

By using this method it's easier to target specific areas of the field/farm with additional crop inspections (and herbicides if necessary) ensuring the minimum spend on herbicides while achieving excellent weed control.

Michael Hennessy is a Teagasc tillage specialist

Indo Farming


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