"Perfect" start raises hopes for bumper finish

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Photo of Craig Larke and Ross Dick

Corrigin, Western Australia, grower Craig Larke, at a shift-change with one of his staff, Ross Dick, describes the start to the 2014 winter cereals season as simple "perfect".

PHOTO: Evan Collis


While parts of the Western Australian wheatbelt have had a dry start to season 2014, the state as a whole, which produces more than 40 per cent of the national wheat crop, has had one of the best beginnings to a winter cereals season in many people’s memories.

Craig Larke describes the seasonal break at his farm near Corrigin in the central WA wheatbelt as simply “perfect”.

With the rain gauge on one of his blocks recording 165 millimetres from 1 January until 13 May and another showing 135mm, Craig says it is the best start in 40 years.

The 32-year-old, who farms with his wife Nicole and parents Warren and Jan, usually likes to take a sow-by-the-calendar approach and start seeding around 15 April.

However, he was more than happy to delay this year’s start until 18 April so a germination of weeds could be knocked down before the seeding rig was put into the ground.

Aside from the novelty of the seeding rig getting bogged eight times on some of their paddocks, the Larkes, like others in the region, have planted into a full moisture profile.

As continuous croppers, Craig says break crops comprise about one-third of their 3300-hectare program.

This year, ATR-Cobbler and ATR-Snapper canola were planted across 800ha, while PBA Gunyidi lupins were sown across 300ha.

Baudin and Scope barley were planted over 900ha, with the remaining 1200ha sown to Mace, Magenta and LongReach Cobra wheat.

Rather than apply nitrogen later in the season and risk not being able to drive on paddocks because of the potential for further wet weather, this year Craig applied all of the urea (90 kilograms/ha) at sowing.

To limit the possibility of fertiliser toxicity, 75 per cent of the urea was banded and 25 per cent applied using spreading plates fitted at the front of the seeding bar.

“We’ve done some reading and found that banding urea is about five to eight per cent more efficient than later applications,” Craig says.

“Now we’ve had a great start, I’m hoping we can finish off with our average rainfall. If it’s a soft finish, there’s no reason why we can’t back up another good year like last year.”


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