Tuesday, 16 June 2015 14:07

Clover collateral damage in Tutsan control

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Tutsan. Tutsan.

A Ravensdown-sponsored study by AgResearch, of highly invasive tutsan, has found there is no quick-fix when it comes to controlling and eradicating the weed.

 

Found throughout New Zealand, Tutsan is unpalatable to livestock but can be harmful if ingested. Like St John’s Wort, it contains hypericin, which causes photosensitisation and extreme skin sensitivity (hyperaesthesia) in sheep, cattle and horses.

In the past tutsan has been held in check by tutsan rust, but in the central North Island the plant is showing resistance to rust and spreading rapidly across hill country.

“The biggest problem with controlling tutsan at the moment is that the most effective herbicides are toxic to clover, which is counter-productive in the type of country where this weed is an issue,” says George Kerse, Ravensdown’s business manager agrochemicals.

“In the absence of other solutions such as biological control, some farms might have to use chemical controls and sacrifice clover growth, although the fact that there is no damage to grass lessens the impact,” he says. It can take 6-12 months for clover to re-establish after spraying.

Products that contain triclopyr and picloram appear to be the best available option at present, but these still require repeat treatments.

Biological control options are still being explored by the Tutsan Action Group, founded in 2011 and supported by the Sustainable Farming Fund. Tutsan Action Group chair Graham Wheeler says progress on biological controls is promising, but still a way off.

“The most important thing is that farmers need to deal with the weed as soon as it appears,” he says.

“Tutsan isn’t only a problem on poor land and if outbreaks are not dealt with as soon as possible, the weed will spread.”

The study says it is important to control isolated plants and to re-plant bare sites with more desirable, competitive species. Improving fertility can help prevent seedling growth and this needs to be supported with the application of fertiliser, oversowing with desirable species and stock grazing.

“The reality is that there is no silver bullet available at the moment which can solve the tutsan problem,” Kerse says.

“While we will continue to hope for a breakthrough biological treatment, at the present chemical control supported by sound management practices are the only option.”

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Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

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To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

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In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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