More WA growers spinning the dice on early sowing

Author: | Date: 12 Feb 2016

Man kneels in crop field on a sunny day

GRDC Western Regional Panel member Greg Rebetzke says new dry sowing survey findings will be presented at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth.

Image of sown canola

Canola sown at Pindar as part of a GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Network early sowing trial carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and Synergy Consulting WA.


Western Australian grain growers are increasingly sowing crops dry in early to mid-April to optimise wheat production.

A new survey has uncovered a growing trend in dry sowing and a slight shift to earlier sowing as many of the State’s growers seek to get their whole cropping program in the ground on time.

The survey findings stem from a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project investigating dry sowing.

This involves researchers from CSIRO, the Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) and the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA).

The survey used data from the annual Planfarm Bankwest Benchmarks analysis of up to 217 WA growers each year from 2011 to 2014, along with detailed historical seeding records from seven leading wheatbelt growers.

Andrew Fletcher, of CSIRO, will be presenting the survey results at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth, scheduled for February 29 and March 1 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Perth Update also includes a focus session about how growers can take advantage of early sowing opportunities. Registrations for the event can be made at:

Traditionally, WA growers have delayed sowing until there is sufficient soil moisture to ensure crop germination and emergence.

This has meant that, in most wheatbelt areas, cereal crops have commonly been sown around and after mid-May.

But Dr Fletcher and his colleagues found evidence of a recent trend towards earlier and dry sowing.

He said sowing data from seven wheatbelt growers surveyed showed cereal planting tended to start four-six weeks earlier in 2015 than in 2010, especially in eastern wheatbelt areas.

“This group of growers also tended to undertake dry sowing before the break of the season in 2015, when required, which was not as common in 2010,” Dr Fletcher said.

The Planfarm Bankwest Benchmarks data showed that, across all farms surveyed and for three years of data, sowing started on average on April 29 in low and medium rainfall zones and on May 3 in high rainfall zones.

But Dr Fletcher said there was significant variation in the start and end dates of sowing, with many growers starting sowing programs around ANZAC day and 20 per cent starting before that date.

He said other trends from the 2011-14 Planfarm Bankwest Benchmarks data included:

  • Growers with bigger cropped areas started sowing earlier in all rainfall zones
  • More growers undertook dry sowing in 2013 and 2014 compared to 2011 and 2012
  • Average cropped area for growers who used dry sowing was 3290ha
  • Average crop area for those who did not dry sow was 2470ha
  • Of the growers who did dry sow, an average of 24 per cent of total crop area was sown dry
  • Growers in the low rainfall zone had the highest area of cereals dry sown

Dr Fletcher said growers surveyed preferred to dry sow canola and lupins, rather than cereals, but the total area of dry-sown wheat exceeded the combined area of dry-sown canola and lupins.

“This makes wheat the biggest dry sown crop in WA,” he said.

To this end, GRDC is continuing to fund research into management techniques that will help to reduce the risks associated with early and dry sowing of wheat in WA and testing varieties under a range of early and dry sown conditions.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Dr Andrew Fletcher
08 9333 6467, 0477 347 449

Dr Greg Rebetzke
0429 994 226


Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827

GRDC Project Code WAN00021

Region West

GRDC Project code: WAN00021