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Tuesday, 30 April 1957

Mr CASEY - For a long time, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been working on the problem of skeleton weed, which is one of the most destructive pests in the southern part of New South Wales and in the north-western part of Victoria in its effects on the wheat industry in particular. Until lately the real nature of skeleton weed had not been properly appreciated, and the C.S.I.R.O. now takes the view that it represents a competitive element in respect of available supplies of nitrogen in the soil, in that both skeleton weed and wheat, particularly in its early stages of growth, depend on nitrogen for their sustenance. There is competition between the two for available nitrogen. The C.S.I.R.O. is now of the opinion that the best thing to do is to spray the fallow in the autumn, from four to six weeks before the wheat crop or other cereal crop is planted, in order to set back the skeleton weed and to give the new oncoming wheat or other cereal crop the chance to become properly established. It now recommends that, instead of spraying in the spring, which has been the normal thing up to the present, farmers should spray the fallow in the autumn, thus enabling the new cereal crop to become established and denying the potential skeleton weed crop the opportunity to establish itself. Experiments have shown that this process results in an increase of the wheat or other cereal crop of between five and fifteen bushels an acre. There is no getting over the fact that skeleton weed is a very great curse in the wheat areas of New South Wales and Victoria. It is believed that this new method of hormone spraying before the wheat is actually sown may very well be one of the solutions to the problem. It will not be the complete solution but, at any rate, it will reduce the loss on wheat and other cereal crops which has resulted from the inroads of skeleton weed in the past. I shall be very glad to supply the honorable gentleman with details of the strengths of the weedicides necessary for this treatment, and also other details in which he may be interested. However, I have stated the broad principle: The fallow is sprayed in the autumn, from four to six weeks before the wheat crop is sown, instead of the spraying taking place in the spring as in the past.

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