Skip to main content
Click to open menu
Click to close menu
Begin main content

New herbicide a boom for durum wheat production

Overwatch® Herbicide has been an outstanding addition for the control of ryegrass in durum wheat for Mark Hill at Tarlee in South Australia.

Mr Hill was an earlier adopter when durum wheat was introduced to South Australia 35 years ago and has been growing it every year since.

“I've really enjoyed durum production,” he said. “The fact that it goes to a local pasta manufacturer at San Remo’s Harley Milling down in Adelaide and the fact that our grain is value-adding locally in South Australia is pretty exciting."

He said durum production over the years had been a bit fraught, with farmers jumping in and out, with challenges with weed competition, crown rot and varieties, however that has changed in recent years.

“It has got to the stage now in the last two or three years that my durum production is out yielding my bread wheat and I'm very pleased about that.  The breeders have some terrific varieties out now that are really starting to become more competitive, with far better water use efficiency.  There is also this outstanding new herbicide on the block.”

A major factor has been the introduction of Overwatch® Herbicide which has demonstrated an excellent fit in the durum phase of the rotation.

“Overwatch® has certainly been outstanding for a lot of us,” Mr Hill said.  “It's working very well.”

“Boxer Gold* has just about run its race and now this new herbicide has come along, and I'm really excited about Overwatch®.”

“It has done an amazing job on the grasses and as a sideline it's done a really good job on the broad leaves as well.”

While ryegrass is the major weed of concern on the farm, Overwatch® Herbicide is also controlling the bifora and, doing a great job on the bedstraw, and wild radish too.

It has allowed durum to establish without weed competition and achieve yields that are competitive with bread wheat.

The 2022 season saw the highest durum yields ever on the property, followed by another excellent year in 2023, with substantially less rainfall.

“In our record durum year, we had 300 mm more growing season rainfall than we've had this year (2023), and my yields have not been that far behind,” Mr Hill said.   “I put that down to weed control and also better water use efficiency.”

“We've had virtually no weed pressure sucking out the moisture.”

He said the weed control was evident in areas where there was a miss with the herbicide and the ryegrass took over.

“I can see a 40, 50, 60% yield reduction in those spots where there wasn’t any chemical applied because the ryegrass and other weeds, have competed more aggressively with the crop."

“Ryegrass is the biggest bane of agriculture across Australia because there's so much resistance that’s developed.  That’s part of the reason why I'm just being a bit cautious about how I use Overwatch®.”

“Going forward, I'm just going to use Overwatch® Herbicide only in my durum – where it's doing an outstanding job.  I just want to preserve it for as long as possible on my property.  I'm pretty sure that I've turned the corner with my rotation through this new chemical in terms of ryegrass control. "

On the property, durum is rotated with peas, beans, canola and lentils as well as barley and bread wheat.  Durum doesn’t require the fungicides associated with bread wheat so is a profitable option if yields are competitive.

In 2024 The Hill family will celebrate 150 years of farming in the region,and have continually embraced technology to make the enterprise more sustainable.

“I've been direct drilling for 45 years and have had practising stubble retention for nearly 50 years,” Mr Hill said.

“I'm really keen about improving the soil structure and water use efficiency.  Personally, I'm growing two to three times the amount of grain now than I was 50 years ago, and on less rainfall.  I’m sure that's due to the adoption of stubble retention direct drilling, better seed placement and advancements in plant breeding and crop protection chemistry.”