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Rural Diary
1 April 2020

Technical advice core to business relationship

The business relationship between Nelson contractors Kevin and Andrew Fry (K & A Fry Contracting) and PGG Wrightson has grown so strong over the last five years, that both parties now promote and refer one another to new farmers in the district.

Established in 2002, K & A Fry Contracting are the biggest agri-contractors in the local area, offering hay silage, groundwork, feed conservation and spraying services. What started as a one-man business with a tractor and a seed drill, has grown to a sizeable partnership between Andrew and his father, Kevin. They now have a fleet of five tractors and a spray truck, operating with a team of six full-time staff. 

Andrew notes that spray contracting is the biggest part of their business and being able to rely on PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative, Andrew Young, helps with inputs, advice and daily support in both their agri-contracting business and cropping ventures. 

“Andrew (Young) is outstanding for both his service and knowledge. We’re in constant communication with him for advice when we’re out on a job, and we talk to him daily about spraying.

“In many instances, we’re working for PGG Wrightson customers, but sometimes not. That doesn’t matter to Andrew, he’s always happy to help.

“He knows what he’s talking about and gives us sound advice. He’s quick to respond, and if there’s something he’s not sure about, he’s upfront in telling us that he needs to do some research first.”
The Fry’s also have 75 ha of crops under irrigation, growing maize for PGG Wrightson Seeds and Lucerne for baleage. They’ve recently added 11 ha hops, too. With the contracting business, Kevin and Andrew are not on the farm a lot of the time. Here, they rely heavily on Andrew Young to monitor the crops and regularly revise their crop management plans. 

 “Andrew is probably here at least three times a week checking on the crops and keeping things on track,” says Andrew Fry. “That gives us real peace of mind.”

He adds that they order everything through PGG Wrightson, “we find PGG Wrightson to be consistently reliable. We rarely have to wait for a product. Andrew normally delivers it too, unless it’s a big volume.

“We’re loyal to PGG Wrightson, but they’ve earned that loyalty. We consistently get good deals and Andrew’s support is invaluable in all areas of our business.”

Related Articles

The benefits of measuring soil variability

01 April 2020

When soil sampling, we usually collect the sample by block or by paddock. This is purely driven by ease of sampling logistics, such as crop area or fencing around a paddock, rather than yield variability and soil type, which in fact have the biggest influence on available plant nutrient.

Zonal soil sampling uses knowledge of historical management and spatial factors to direct where to take samples and determine if these areas have different fertiliser needs. Tools such as yield maps, crop sensor maps, Electro Magnetic (EM) soil maps and aerial imagery provide more information about variability in the field and where soil sampling can help interpret variability.

Soil depth and texture (sand, silt, and clay) change constantly across a paddock, impacting on the soil’s ability to hold on to moisture and nutrients, for instance a sandy soil has a lower water and nutrient holding capacity than a clay soil. By measuring the variability in sand, silt, and clay across a paddock and plotting it using GPS, we can create a map showing zones by soil texture and then sample those areas separately. This can be done either by a soil scientist taking soil cores and creating a soil classification report, or by using a scanning device such as an Electro Magnetic (EM) scanner or an Electrical Conductivity (EC) scanner. 

The scanner is towed across the paddock or area to be scanned usually at 12 metres swaths and sends an electrical pulse into the soil about every second as it drives forwards. The electrical pulse then bounces back to a receiver on the scanner having arced through moisture in the soils pores. Then, with the aid of an algorithm, a geo located reading of the soil porosity is done linking to the soil particle size and giving a soil texture indication.

A map is then created showing areas of soil texture change which can be sampled separately. A fertiliser plan can then be created by zone rather than by paddock. The spreader used must have the ability to variably apply fertiliser or lime. The map can also be used to variably apply seed, slug bait and even cultivations and help place soil moisture probes if you have irrigation.

The benefits of measuring soil variability are that you can apply lime and plant nutrients where they are required instead of carrying out a blanket application across the area to be fertilised. There are potential savings and environmental benefits by avoiding over fertilising areas, and crop output benefits from not under-fertilising areas, however the jury is still out with proven benefits of variable applied nitrogen (N).

For more information on zonal soil sampling, please speak to your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

Standing the test of time

01 April 2020

We all know that weeds in pastures are undesirable, but a recent study sponsored by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment1 has reported that we have likely been underestimating their full cost to New Zealand agriculture. 

The study estimated that the total cost for just 10 common pasture weeds was likely to be over $1.3 billion a year in lost production, while Californian thistle alone takes over $700 million per annum 
from farmers. 

Farmers need to get on top of weeds to protect pasture yields, and fortunately they have some good tools at their disposal like Tropotox™ Ultra. Tropotox Ultra is a selective, grass and clover friendly herbicide that controls many broadleaf weeds in pasture, peas, clover and grass seed crops. It has a broad spectrum of activity with strength on thistles, buttercup, and seedling docks.

Tropotox Ultra contains 25 grams a litre MCPA and 375 grams a litre MCPB in a soluble concentrate formulation. It is a member of the phenoxy herbicide group, which were first discovered back in the 1930s, developed and commercialised in New Zealand in the 1980s, and still form the backbone of many of our pasture weed control programmes today.

Phenoxy herbicides mimic the natural plant growth regulator auxin in plants, causing abnormal growth, twisting of stems and cupping of leaves in susceptible species followed by plant death. However, monocots (for example grasses) are largely unaffected by the rates of phenoxy used, but many dicot plants (for instance broadleaves weeds) are highly susceptible. 

Tropotox Ultra is absorbed into foliage of growing plants where it moves to the growing points and interferes with key plant functions. Visible symptoms, such as twisting and curling of foliage, can be seen in a day or two but death of weeds can take several weeks. Clover, and some other legumes, lack the mechanisms that converts the product to the herbicidal active form, and once clover has at least two true trifoliate leaves it is tolerant to Tropotox Ultra.

Best use guides:

  • Apply Tropotox Ultra to small, actively growing weeds once clovers have passed two true tri-foliate leaves.
  • Do not apply to weeds under stress for example drought, water logging.
  • Use the higher rate where weeds are more advanced.
  • Avoid spraying where rainfall is expected within two hours of application.

For more information on how to get the best out of your pastures by using Tropotox Ultra, talk to your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

Supplied by Agritrade
1Saunders JT, G. G. (2017). The economic costs of weeds on productive land in New Zealand. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

Perennial weed control in new and established pastures

01 May 2020

Perennial weeds grow from one year to the next, usually from a large root system or root chip. New generations usually flower and seed in late summer and the parent plant normally shuts down over winter, lives off the energy reserves in its roots, then wakes up in the spring to continue growing.

Perennial weeds in new pasture become yield-taking because they are already established and compete with the small seedlings of a new pasture from the start. Their head start in establishment ensures the domination battle for space, light and nutrients is already won, and the seedlings of the new pasture plant species lose. This partial or total domination of the pasture leads to poor feed yields, quality and sometimes animal health issues.

Some examples of perennial weeds include Californian thistle, couch, dock and buttercup. Both perennial and annual weeds establish themselves in the pasture where there are gaps either caused by insect or grazing damage. Once there is an area of bare soil, weed seeds can colonise and grow, so over-sowing or under-sowing more pasture seed can help fill these gaps. Where there are perennial weeds already growing from roots or shoots, these bare areas are colonised quickly, and over-sowing or under-sowing won’t help.

Most clover safe selective herbicides can be quite unreliable at controlling perennial weeds and often require repeat applications to reduce the root biomass, which is the energy source of the perennial weed. A combination of grazing, mowing and spraying may keep the leaf area small on the weed, which will suppress the amount of growth below ground. In many situations, the only real alternative is to start again by spraying with glyphosate and reseeding.

It is critical that you use an appropriate dose rate of good quality glyphosate sprayed when the weed is actively growing and there is enough green leaf area to take up sufficient chemical. Leave cultivations for at least three to five days to allow translocation of the glyphosate to the roots of the perennial weeds.

For advice controlling perennial weeds, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.


Top Tips:

  • Know what weeds you are dealing with and their life  cycle to time your best control strategy.
  • Avoid damage to pasture, gaps allow weeds to establish. Over-sow or under-sow pasture to fill gaps before perennial weeds colonise.
  • Mowing and grazing, as well as well-timed selective herbicide, remove aerial growth and reduce the weed's ability to grow a bigger root system.
  • Selective herbicides often require more than one application.
  • If all else fails, spray-out and start again.
  • For spray-out use, an appropriate dose of a quality glyphosate and spray the weed when it is actively growing with enough green leaf area, for instance around 10 cm, to ensure good coverage and uptake.
  • Do not cultivate for at least three to five days.

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