GAINING a better understanding of wheat head development and decision-making tools was the key focus at a Yuna Farm Improvement Group (YFIG) meeting last week.
The workshop, part of a Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) eConnected project, gave growers the opportunity to inspect wheat heads to identify disease and reduced herbicide damage.
Farmanco agronomist Bill Campbell said understanding wheat development and the application window of phenoxy herbicides was critical to reduce the impact of herbicides on wheat crops.
Phenoxies are part of the Group I chemical family and include 2,4-D, dichlorprop and MCPA herbicides.
Mr Campbell provided a scientific explanation on the microscopic development in the wheat head during early stages, which could be damaged by phenoxy herbicides and may not develop pollen.
Growers were able to look at dissected wheat heads projected onto a large screen via a microscope to evaluate the stage of its development.
"For growers to understand the wheat development and phenoxy application window it can have dramatic effects," Mr Campbell said.
"When a wheat plant is at six to seven leaf development, this is the most vulnerable time for applying phenoxies and can result in major yield losses."
YFIG event chairperson and agronomist Belinda Eastough said the workshop was particularly useful due to the late germinations of wild radish in the area.
"Growers were able to gain a better understanding on why they can get so much damage in wheat when applying phenoxy herbicides," she said.
DAFWA online tools My Crop and Flower Power were also demonstrated.
DAFWA development officer Andrew Blake said the Grains Research and Development Corporation supported tools were extremely useful in managing business risk through the tools' diagnostic features.
My Crop has a diagnostic key for all major cereal and pulses grown in the State and can save time and be useful to help overcome problems such as comparing herbicide choices as well as diagnosing diseases in the field.
"In the wheat diagnostic tool there are 86 possible constraints and growers can use a process of elimination to identify the constraints on their crop," Mr Blake said.
"It uses quality images and detailed fact sheet library to assist identification as well as management and treatment options."
DAFWA research officer Christine Zaicou gave an overview of the Flower Power tool, which uses information from more than seven years of research to help growers make decisions on varieties and time of sowing.
"Flower Power also weighs up frost and heat risk for your location based on weather data and provides a risk index on sowing time to predict your variety choice flowering time."
The prevalence of disease this year was also a keen talking point, with DAFWA research officer Ciara Beard highlighting the potential of powdery mildew rapid movement from canopy up to the head.
"With carry over inoculum from 2015 stubble, powdery mildew is again an issue this year," she said.
"Early sown crops are at a higher risk and there is potential to increase yield through fungicide application at registered rates to susceptible varieties.
"Sometimes disease can disappear but at 15-22 degrees Celcius, with 70 per cent humidity, the disease thrives with moist soil.
"So far we don't have fungicide resistance in wheat to powdery mildew and we can avoid resistance by not overusing fungicides and rotating varieties."