Let’s talk feathertop Rhodes grass
The key to managing feathertop Rhodes grass (FTR) is to stop it in in tracks before it becomes established. This can be easier said than done in a farming system that typically manages weed problems reactively – that is waiting until the weeds have germinated and then taking action.
Feathertop Rhodes grass is very well adapted to no-till fallows. Under the right climatic conditions, it can rapidly emerge and quickly become too large for spraying, so the optimal spray window can be as little as a few days. Glyphosate is usually ineffective and those post-emergent herbicides which are the most reliable need to be targeted at very small weeds, soon after emergence. This makes it especially difficult to control populations when managing large areas that have all germinated on a rainfall event, especially as all standard post-emergent herbicides will require a second double-knock application.
The key to managing FTR is to be on top of it from the start. Farm hygiene is critical. Wherever isolated plants are found they should be physically removed before setting seed.
Understand that, in zero till fallows, FTR is most likely to be the first weed to establish after winter – so management plans need to be in place before the first spring rainfall event – ideally by having an effective residual herbicide already applied, or being ready for an effective post-emergent double knock within 1-2 weeks of emergence.
In response to the ongoing FTR problem, GRDC has initiated a new investment to assist growers and agronomists in southern Queensland and northern NSW in developing strategies to manage this weed.
Five demonstration paddocks are comparing a best management approach to local grower standards over the next two summers.
Sites are located at
Initial plan for the sites
The initial plan for each of the 5 demo sites was to apply and compare the effectiveness of two treatments, the standard treatment used by the grower and the ‘best management’ treatment, which would include additional tactics such as increased crop competition, physical removal (chipping, burning), cultivation, use of residuals, optical sprayers and more. At several sites, additional treatments have also been included.
Click on the locations above to see the latest progress on these sites.
In 2020, ICAN facilitated five 1-day workshops on feathertop Rhodes grass ecology and management for growers and advisers. Due to demand for these workshops additional workshops are planned for 2021.
These 1-day classroom workshops address the latest research underpinning the management of feathertop Rhodes grass, providing growers and advisers with the knowledge to tackle this complex weed problem in the northern farming system.
Research has consistently shown that a ‘wait and react’ strategy (using post-emergent herbicides only) is generally ineffective. Successful programs typically require an integrated approach that combines farm hygiene, pre-emergent herbicides, competition, well targeted post-emergent herbicides and, in many situations, targeted tillage. For many growers, this weed has the potential to force significant changes to farm operations should it be allowed to become established.
The silver lining is that, with aggressive intervention, paddocks can be bought back under control relatively quickly i.e. within a couple of summers.
Workshop content will focus on
- Understanding of feathertop Rhodes grass ecology and biology and how this influences proliferation, including how we can exploit the plants weaknesses when designing our management approach.
- Herbicide tolerance and resistance
- Management tactics
- Farm hygiene
- Crop competition and crop sequencing
- Double knock and in-crop post-emergent herbicides
- Pre-emergent herbicides and where to use them
- Optical sprayers
- Targeted tillage
- Pulling it all together in a management plan.
Dates and locations for workshops for 2021 (click on the button below to register. Workshops are free but numbers are strictly limited and pre-registration essential).
- Biloela - Tuesday 16 November 2021, Hotel Settlers, 58 Dawson Highway, Biloela, QLD 4715
- Emerald - Friday 19 November 2021, Mayfair Ridge Tavern, 9/11 Mayfair Dr, Emerald, QLD 4720
- Narromine - Monday 13 December 2021, Narromine USMC, 58 Dandaloo St, Narromine, NSW 2921
- Condobolin - Tuesday 14 December 2021, Condobolin RSL Club, 20 McDonnell St, Condobolin, NSW 2877
- Griffith - Wednesday 15 December 2021, Griffith Exies Club, 6-12 Jondaryan Ave, Griffith, NSW 2680
- West Wyalong - Thursday 16 December 2021, West Wyalong Services & Citizens Club, 100 Monash St, West Wyalong, NSW 2671
- Cootamundra - Friday 17 December 2021, Cootamundra Ex-Servicemens & Citizens Memorial Club, 299 Parker St, Cootamundra, NSW 2590
- Walgett - Tuesday 1 February 2022, Walgett Sporting Club, Cnr Fox & Montkeila Streets, Walgett, NSW 2832
- Gunnedah - Wednesday 2 February 2022, Gunnedah Services Club, 313 Conadilly St, Gunnedah, NSW 2380
For those unable to attend planned events in person, we will be providing additional resources and media.
Come back here to make sure you are abreast of the latest information on FTR management.
Feathertop Rhodes information
Feathertop Rhodes grass and sorghum - does this work? (Paddock practices article, August 2021)
Strategies for managing feathertop Rhodes grass and ecology and biology of windmill grass (June 2021) (webinar recording)
Grazing and chemical options to manage feathertop Rhodes grass in southern NSW (GRDC Update paper)
Updated GRDC Feathertop Rhodes Grass Manual (November 2020)
Strategies to manage feathertop Rhodes grass (January 2021)
Tactics for feathertop Rhodes grass management outlined in the north
Is it safe to plant winter cereals after using Group A herbicides?
Winter ideal time for feathertop Rhodes grass control plan
GRDC Grains Research Update, online - Feathertop Rhodes grass (southern NSW)