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Application of non-selective herbicides during flowering of pasture legumes can reduce seed yield and alter seed characteristics

A. Wallace, R. A. Lancaster and N. L. Hill

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 38(6) 583 - 594
Published: 1998


Summary. Spraytopping, the application of a low rate of non-selective herbicide (usually glyphosate or paraquat) to annual grass seed heads in the spring or early summer for seed set control is widely practised throughout Australia. While grasses are the targets of the spray treatment, annual pasture legumes may also be damaged by spraytopping, particularly if the legumes are flowering at the time of application.

The effect of applying glyphosate (90, 112 or 162 g a.i./ha), paraquat (100 g a.i./ha) and glyphosate plus MCPA (90 + 150 g a.i./ha) to subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L. cv. Dalkeith) and annual medic (Medicago polymorpha L. cvv. Serena, Santiago and Circle Valley) pastures at various times during flowering was investigated during the spring of 1993 and 1994. Experiments were located at Tincurrin and Tenindewa, Western Australia.

Subterranean clover seed yield was most affected by applications of glyphosate (90 and 162 g a.i./ha) and glyphosate plus MCPA (90 + 150 g a.i./ha) during early–mid flowering. Seed yield was reduced by as much as 88% following application of glyphosate plus MCPA when 20% of the subterranean clover plants were flowering. Treatment with paraquat (100 g a.i./ha) during mid–late flowering reduced seed yield of subterranean clover by 25–50% in experiment 1 only. Medic seed yield was reduced up to 90% depending on cultivar when glyphosate (112 g a.i./ha) was applied during early–mid flowering.

In addition to seed yield, the level of hard seed was assessed. Treatment of subterranean clover during early–mid flowering with glyphosate (90 and 162 g a.i./ha) significantly reduced the quantity of hard seed produced. Thirty–forty percent of subterranean clover seed was germinable soon after seed set, compared with 7–17% germinable for the seed from untreated plants. Treatment with glyphosate (112 g a.i./ha) reduced the proportion of hard seed in the medics when applied during mid flowering. Treatment with paraquat had little effect on the proportion of hard seed formed.

This work demonstrates that using a spraytopping technique for control of seed set in annual grasses may dramatically reduce seed yield in pasture legumes. Spraytopping can further reduce the ability of legumes to persist in cropping rotations by reducing the amount of hard seed formed. Implications for practical farming systems are outlined.

© CSIRO 1998

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