UNAFRAID to try something different, the relatively new grain farmers around Walgett in north-west NSW have achieved dramatic crop successes.
This time they've tackled chickpeas, applying conservation farming techniques and controlled traffic to chickpea production and delivering net margins of at least $200-300/ha and a welcome addition to the rotation. Farmer and chairman of the Walgettbased Special One Research Company Mike O'Brien told the recent Chickpea Focus 200 I conference that, in their district, farmers had found that - mainly due to compaction - chickpeas could not be grown as successfully with conventional tillage as with a no-till controlled traffic system.
"Controlled traffic puts it all together," Mr 0 ' Brien told the Goondiwindi conference, which was supported by graingrowers and the Federal Government through the GRDC. The Walgett Special One Research Group is a grower-driven sustainable Farming systems operation al so supported by the G R DC.
"From just 400 hectares under chickpea in 1990, the Walgett region has gone to 55,000 ha this year. Chickpeas tit magnificently into our rotations, which are principally cereals, chickpeas and sorghum. Crop yields are up by more than 200 per cent from those early attempts, with no more rain.
We are doing more with the moisture we receive and I am sure the systems we are using can be adopted elsewhere in similar soil types."
Mr 0' Brien also paid tribute to former Pulse Australia chairman Alan Hunter who, in encouraging Walgett growers to plant chickpeas, had contributed to a remarkable agricultural revolution in his part of north-west NSW.
"It all coincided with the collapse of the reserve price scheme for wool, which, farming-wise, was the best thing that ever happened for Walgett," Mr O'Brien told the Goondiwindi conference. "We had been good graziers but poor farmers, with a bit of farming that involved little more than throwing some seed into the ground when it rained.
"Many farmers in the region went quickly from conventional farming methods in 1995, to possibly the most advanced dryland farming systems in this country by 2000."
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