Top end tops in TOPCROP
The pioneering Inderbitzin family's diversified 'Swiss Farms' operation on remote Cape York Peninsula won the North Queensland Dryland section of the 1995-96 Peanut TOPCROP competition.
'Swiss Farms' has 900 hectares under cultivation at Lakeland, 300 km north of the Atherton Tableland. The major crops are maize and peanuts, plus dolichos lab lab, cowpea, navy beans, coffee and bananas (the only commercial plantation of this fruit in the area). Alios Inderbitzin and sons Peter and Tom also run dairy cows and grow macadamias on the Atherton Tableland.
"We usually have 300¬400 hectares under peanuts — although only 280 hectares last season, 70 hectares dryland — in a constant rotation with maize, year in, year out; we rotate the other legumes in the same way," Peter Inderbitzin said. "After dolichos or cowpea we try to grow maize and then follow that with peanuts."
"Dryland peanuts, from which the winning load came, average 5 t/ha." Mr Inderbitzen said the farm also gets "terrific results with maize, white and yellow, no dead grain and an average of 7.5 t/ha or a touch under last season, averaged across irrigated and non-irrigated paddocks".
Deep ploughing a factor
While Mr Inderbitzin says the consolidated benefits of the cropping rotation and a heavy fertiliser program have contributed much to success in the Peanut TOPCROP competition, deep ploughing was another major factor.
"I believe our yields are being achieved because of a constant maize-peanut rotation over 10 years. But a big contributing factor was that we had ploughed all the peanut country — leaving a non-ploughed piece which yielded much less — and we won't grow any more peanuts without ploughing.
"We used a stump-jump, mouldboard plough made by Ovrum, of Holland, and reckon we got down 11 inches (275 mm); the first year paid for the plough three or four times over."
Mr Inderbitzin said the family's Lakeland cropping country had never been ploughed to any depth, previous practice being to chisel-plough and follow-up with offset discs, "a combination that sucks up a lot more moisture".
Last season 'Swiss Farms' grew NC7 and Southern Runner varieties of peanuts, the NC7 nuts bringing between $800 and $1000 a tonne last season and the Southern Runners $750-$800 a tonne.
In an isolated situation the Inderbitzins carry out all peanut operations themselves, threshing with an Amadas/ Hobbs machine.
'Swiss Farms' moved its cropping operations to Lakeland in 1985, deciding that land previously farmed with peanuts around Malanda, on the Atherton Tableland, was too steep for that crop but highly suitable for macadamias.
Lakeland's red volcanic country is very similar to the northern part of the Atherton Tableland, with a rainfall that "is supposed to be" 800 mm a year.