Protecting direct seeded grasses from herbicide application: can new extruded pellet formulations be used in restoring natural plant communities?
Restoration of native plant communities through direct seeding often experience low seedling establishment success rates, partly due to competition with invasive weed species. To improve seeding success, herbicides can be applied to control weed competition, however, this can have negative impacts on the seeded species. Activated carbon (AC) can be incorporated into newly developed seed enhancement technologies to adsorb herbicides and increase seedling tolerance. This study expands upon research completed to date, by developing new formulations of extruded pellets containing AC, aiming to provide increased protection to seeded species and increase herbicide selectivity. We tested six extruded pellet formulations, which included two pellet formula variations, and three quantities of AC, to examine the impact on emergence (without herbicide) and mortality (with herbicide) of Lolium rigidum Gaudin (annual ryegrass). Extruded pellet formulations containing a superabsorbent polymer (3%) and AC (10%) did not impede emergence (79%), in the absence of herbicide, similar to the non-pelleted seeds (81%). This extruded pellet formulation increased seedling tolerance to Simazine (a pre-emergent, soil applied herbicide) application, with mortality reduced from 96% in non-pelleted seeds, and 77% in pellets containing no AC, to 22% in pellets containing AC. The results from this study demonstrate that AC extruded pelleting can be used as a restoration seeding technology by protecting seeds from the negative effects of pre-emergent herbicide applications. Field evaluations with native seeds will mark an important step forward to ensure seed enhancement technology options, such as AC extruded pelleting, are available for restoring natural plant communities in restoration programs.