Growers share crop establishment knowledge
Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 18 Mar 2019
At least 20 per cent of Western Australian grain growers now begin their seeding programs before the traditional starting date of April 25, and they are frequently attempting to sow and establish crops in unfavourable conditions.
Two new Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) publications – ‘Seeding systems – case studies of growers in WA’ and ‘Maximising crop potential in a drying environment’ – provide consolidated information on research and grower experiences.
GRDC grower relations manager – west Jo Wheeler said the publications, each containing several grower case studies, were initiated by the GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Network (GRDC) initiative after a difficult start to the cropping season in many areas of WA in 2017. This was again an issue in 2018.
“RCSN members noted that, despite the challenging start to the season, some growers managed to successfully establish crops evenly and uniformly and this translated into reasonable yields at the end of the season,” Ms Wheeler said.
“One way to find out why was to identify some of these growers and then to ask them what seeding system they were using and why it worked for them.”
Ms Wheeler said the publication ‘Seeding systems – case studies of growers in WA’ included case studies for 25 growers, who outlined the pros and cons of their seeding bars.
“It takes a closer look at the seeding systems these growers are using to help improve crop establishment on their properties,” she said.
“The case studies demonstrate there is no ‘silver bullet’ seeding bar that is best for all growers across every port zone, rainfall zone and soil type.
“It is also clear that while the brand of a bar may be the same between growers, there can be significant variation from one machine to another.
“For growers wanting a larger bar, there are fewer options available on the market than for smaller bars. On the wider bars, many growers feel the 12-inch tyne spacing is wider than they would like, so they are using splitter boots to improve competition against weeds.”
Ms Wheeler said ‘Maximising crop potential in a drying environment’ included information on a range of additional tactics, other than seeding systems, that growers had employed to achieve better crop establishment when dry sowing crops early.
“Changing weather conditions mean that growers, especially in the north and north-eastern grainbelt, are frequently attempting to sow and establish crops in warmer and drier conditions than in the past,” she said.
“However, these changing weather conditions have also often seen more frequent summer rainfall, often providing a reasonable level of subsoil moisture.
“The 18 growers featured in the booklet, mainly from the Geraldton port zone and eastern parts of the Kwinana port zone, outline what has and has not worked for them.”
Ms Wheeler said that, interestingly, a number of the growers who had tried seeding deeper, in an attempt to reach subsoil moisture, commented they would not continue this practice due to the risk of ‘furrow fill’ (excess soil moving off the inter-row and into the furrow above the seed), resulting in crops failing to emerge.
“These growers resolved to keep their seeding depth constant, as they knew that, with minimal rain on a ‘normal’ seeding depth, their crop would emerge earlier when compared with a deeper-sown crop where the furrow had filled in,” she said.
Tactics used by the growers featured in ‘Maximising crop potential in a drying environment’ include:
- Analysing how deep the seed can be placed into moisture
- Selecting cultivars with appropriate traits, such as varieties with longer coleoptiles, larger seeds and longer season lengths
- Practices that allow for the accumulation of soil moisture at seeding, such as furrow sowing, applying soil wetter, stubble retention and on-row sowing
- Practices to improve establishment on water-repellent soils, such as mouldboard ploughing or deep ripping
- Assessing which seeding equipment provides the best establishment in their environment.
‘Seeding systems – case studies of growers in WA’ and ‘Maximising crop potential in a drying environment’ were written by CussonsMedia and are available on the GRDC website.
Latham grower Dylan Hirsch, who is one of the growers profiled in ‘Maximising crop potential in a drying environment’, also features in a recent GRDC podcast
Jo Wheeler, GRDC Grower Relations Wanager – West
0438 292 167
Natalie Lee, GRDC Communications Manager – West
0427 189 827
GRDC Project code: CMP1802-001SAX
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