Season in full swing after a dry start

Image of a man holding a rain guage

Follow-up rain tops the wish list for northern
New South Wales grower Darryl Bartelen.

PHOTO: Sara Bartelen

The crops are up despite a less than ideal start to season 2013 and the work is on now to protect the young plants from pests and diseases. This is the third instalment of the 2013 farm management series following a group of growers through the winter cereal growing season.

Darryl and Sara Bartelen farm at Tulloona, 65 kilometres north of Moree in northern New South Wales. With Sara’s parents, John and Sue Fitzgerald, they crop wheat, chickpeas, faba beans, barley and sorghum. They grow canola and canary grass as opportunity crops and run 200 head of Angus and Angus-cross cattle.

We’ve had below-average rain, so there’s low weed pressure across our paddocks. Our double and triple-knock applications were mostly effective, so we’ve only sprayed once using the WeedSeeker®. We’ve had to moisture-seek at seeding – planting the wheat and barley 10 centimetres below the soil surface before covering it with 5cm of soil.

After planting a third of our crops with tynes, we used a contractor with discs to plant the rest due to the dry soil conditions. Although we increased our seeding densities to help overcome poor establishment, there’s patchy emergence in the cereals, but the chickpeas look good.

There’s high pressure from kangaroos and we’re controlling feral pigs in the chickpeas with traps and dogs. We used an excavator to repair on-farm roads and planted barley on 20 hectares of flood-affected country. We’ve bought 180 head of cattle and plan to sell 22 steers. We’ve sold 800 tonnes of 2012 wheat and chickpeas. Apart from monitoring for weeds, disease and nutrient deficiencies, we’re focused on grain marketing and considering a new disc planter.

David and Sandra Herrmann, their son Braden and David’s parents, Ross and Merle, farm 50km south of Murray Bridge in South Australia’s Mallee region. They crop wheat, barley, canola, field peas and oaten hay.

Rainfall has been below average in April and May, so we’ve only sprayed once, targeting volunteer cereals and grass weeds before seeding. With a quarter of our cropping program dry-sown, we’ve finished seeding within the optimum planting window for our district. The new disc seeder has improved planting efficiency, averaging between 8.5 and 13 kilometres per hour. Despite the dry conditions, our early-sown crops have mostly germinated well, but emergence in the canola is patchy on non-wetting, sandy country. Dragging steel cables across our paddocks to kill snails has been effective, but we’ve baited our canola and field peas, which are at higher risk of snail damage.

We’ve only forward-sold a small percentage of our grain due to the dry conditions, and we’re looking for marketing opportunities based on past and projected prices from 2012 to 2014. We’ve spread ammonium sulfate fertiliser on the canola because the crop requires more sulfur than cereals. Following above-average rain in June, we’re monitoring crops for weeds, pests and nutrient deficiencies Applying nitrogen and post-emergent herbicides are high on our to-do list.

Natalie and Leon Bowman farm at Grass Patch, 70km north of Esperance in Western Australia’s Mallee region. They grow wheat, barley, canola and field peas, and run 80 mostly Angus cows.

We haven’t had much rain lately, but enough to spur germinations of broadleaf weeds that required three knockdown sprays before seeding. Without interruption from rain, we’ve planted our crops earlier than usual, which has increased the risk of frost damage. There’s good emergence across our paddocks. Areas of canola on non-wetting soils have received two sprays to control mites, and we’re also monitoring the crop for aphids.

We’re focused on machinery maintenance, and applying liquid nitrogen in the canola, and the cereals on sandy soils. We’re spraying grass weeds in the canola and broadleaf weeds in the cereals. We’ve forward-sold about half of our 2013 grains and refurbished a farmhouse for a new employee.

St John and Edwina Kent farm with their neighbours Brett and Helen McLaren on the Jimbour Plain, about 36km north-west of Dalby on the Darling Downs in southern Queensland. The two families crop sorghum, chickpeas, maize, mungbeans and wheat. They grow cotton as an opportunity crop and run Wagyu-cross cows.

We haven’t had much rain and, in combination with a fallow spray before seeding, there’s low weed pressure across our winter grains paddocks. Heavy dews have slowed seeding because we’ve had to clean mud from the discs every 8ha in the early morning and late afternoon.

We’ve had to spray 300ha of late-sown sorghum for midge, before harvesting 1100ha of the summer crop, which yielded about 5.5t/ha. We’re monitoring our emerging crops for diseases, particularly the chickpeas, and weeds, plus repairing on-farm roads and paddocks eroded by summer flooding. The McLaren family, who we farm in partnership with, have purchased 118ha that gives us access to a new road. We plan to build a new 2500-litre fuel tank, up from 1200L, to improve harvesting efficiency, and have a holiday.

Rod and Victoria Kennedy farm two properties: one 40km south of Skipton and the other 30km west of the town in Victoria’s western district. They grow wheat, barley, canola and oats, and run 2000 Merinos.

Lack of rain allowed for good wheat and barley stubble burns, but we had to wait for weeds to germinate so we could spray them, which delayed seeding.

Although we’ve had dry conditions and started planting two weeks later than usual, we finished within the optimum window and crop emergence looks good. Our paddocks are mostly clean of weeds and pests, but we’re baiting for slugs after rain and spraying the canola for grass weeds.

We’ve sold some ewes and wethers, and a local team have started shearing our 3500 sheep. Woady Yaloak Catchment Group and Southern Farming Systems have installed a moisture probe on our property to help pinpoint the optimum time to top dress nitrogen in the district. We’re set to apply phosphoric acid on our 4ha wheat trial to explore its potential as a partial fertiliser replacement.

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