Mullewa farmers strike balance

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The Tropiano family is striking the balance between livestock and chemical weed control.

David and his father, John, run a 5000 hectare farm 20km south-east of Mullewa. They also run a flock of 1500 Merino ewes.

They started spraying for summer weeds in mid January, after December rains soaked into the soil. “Between 80mm and 100mm fell on the farm from December 16 to 20, then we got another inch in early January, ” John said.

“We’ll end up having to spray most of our (3000ha) cropping program and possibly some pasture paddocks.

“At this stage, we’ll spray 500ha of some country that was fallowed last year and some that was sown to wheat.”

John said the priority was to clean up paddy melons in paddocks where they germinated during summer. “I’ll spray out the melons and the sheep can come in and clean them up, ” he said.

Other prominent weeds found on the farm include mintweed, tar vine, wireweed and wild portulacca.

John and David held out as long as they could on summer spraying this year, to avoid a second chemical application.

“The risk is if we go too early we’ll get a second germination, so we’re trying to avoid doing a second pass during summer, ” John said.

The Tropianos learnt the hard way not to overstock their farm.

“I’ve been caught in a drought and learnt a lesson, ” John said. “In 2006, I was running 4000 sheep and had to have them agisted and I leased land down south to hang onto them. I bought in a lot of hay and lupins and it was very costly.”

John downsized his flock to 1500 breeders and plans to remain at this level. He said under-stocking his land had made it easier to maintain groundcover.

“We try to keep as much groundcover as possible, because it stops any erosion and helps to conserve soil moisture, ” he said.

“Sheep definitely help with weeds, but we are careful not to over graze.”

John and David mix one litre of glyphosate per hectare with 500mL of ester-680, 100mL of triclopyr, five grams of Ally, 0.3 per cent of LI-700 and one per cent ammonium sulfate.

Depending on the weather, the Tropianos expect to be spraying until late January.

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