High grain quality the silver lining

In the wake of a challenging winter cereal-growing season in many districts, high grain quality has helped many growers offset yield losses caused by patchy rain and frost. In this final instalment of the 2013 farm management series, growers are already finetuning their plans for 2014

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.

Dry conditions and frost reduced our yield potential by about 50 per cent in wheat, 25 per cent in barley, 20 per cent in chickpeas and 10 per cent in faba beans. However, we’ve had good grain quality. Our wheat, which averaged 2.7 tonnes per hectare, was graded Australian Prime Hard 1 and 2; and the barley, which averaged 3.2t/ha, was malting grade. Our chickpea yield average was 2t/ha and the faba beans averaged 1.2t/ha.

Lack of rain and hot weather also reduced the yield potential of our summer grains, particularly 100ha of maize at the sensitive tasseling growth stage.

We estimate the sorghum has 3t/ha yield potential. We’ve forward sold 1000t of wheat, and sold all the barley and faba beans at harvest, and we’re marketing another 1000t of wheat, plus the chickpeas when prices are more profitable.

For the 2014 winter season, we’re considering a mix of short and long-season wheat cultivars to help manage seasonal risks, such as frost. These include the new wheat varieties SunguardPBR logo and SuntopPBR logo, and the older varieties LongReach SpitfirePBR logo and EGA GregoryPBR logo. We’re planting winter and summer legumes as green manure crops across 600ha, respectively in April and September, to lift yields over a five-year period. Apart from fixing soil nitrogen, using cultivation to incorporate these crops into the soil aims to deep-band nutrients, control herbicide-resistant weeds, reduce disease (by burying weed seed and crop residue) and decrease herbicide use.

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

We haven’t had much rain and dry conditions reduced our yields by up to 30 per cent, but grain quality has been good.
Canola yields were slightly above our long-term average of 0.7t/ha and oil content was also above average. Apart from 400ha of wheat affected by moisture stress and frost, which yielded 0.8t/ha, the crop yielded slightly above our long-term average of 1.8t/ha, achieving Australian Premium White and Wheat Hard 2 grades.

Barley yields were slightly below our long-term average of 2t/ha, and mostly classed as Feed Grade, aside from 25 per cent classed as Malt Grade.

Field pea yields were disappointing, particularly on sandy soils due to herbicide issues, but we’re still planning to grow them in 2014 because they fix soil nitrogen and allow us to control ryegrass with crop-topping. However, we won’t grow them for hay because they didn’t compete well with our oaten hay in 2013. We’ve sold the hay, field peas and malt barley, but we’ve delayed marketing the feed barley and a third of the wheat and canola until prices improve.

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

We’ve had dry conditions, apart from small rains that delayed harvest for two days and slightly downgraded 500ha of wheat. Our barley, which yielded between 3t/ha and 4t/ha, was malt grade.

The wheat, which averaged between 2.5t/ha and 4t/ha, was mostly graded Australian Premium White, although about 20 per cent was graded Wheat Hard 2. The faba beans yielded 1.5t/ha on average, and the canola yielded 1.2t/ha on average, with 47 per cent oil content.

We’ve sold two-thirds of the wheat, barley and canola, and we’re carting the remaining grain to Esperance for the first time this year because our local grain receival depot was full. We’ve finished harvest machinery maintenance and we’re spraying summer weeds. Our CorackPBR logo wheat variety was slightly affected by white mould, so we’re replacing it with MacePBR logo in 2014. We’re also replacing 600ha of grazed pasture with canola because the oilseed crop provides better yields in subsequent wheat crops.

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.

Photo of St John Kent

Queensland grower St John Kent prepares to renovate his tram tracks in the wake of the 2013 winter grains harvest on the property he farms in partnership with Brett and Helen McLaren near Dalby.

PHOTO: Clarisa Collis

Apart from small rains, mostly dry conditions allowed us to finish harvesting in two weeks. The barley, which yielded 4.4t/ha on average, was feed grade quality, and the chickpea yield was variable, averaging between 0.6t/ha to 1.5t/ha, due to yield penalties caused by frost and use of a residual herbicide on our lighter soils. We’ve delivered the barley to a local grain trader, but we’re storing the chickpeas on-farm to delay marketing until prices lift.

Our early sown summer maize is showing some yield potential despite the lack of rain, testifying to huge varietal improvements in the past 15 years. We’re planting sorghum and mungbeans as 2014 summer crops, and hope to sow maize early as an opportunity crop in August because it tolerates frost and moisture stress, extends our planting window and varies our herbicide use. We’re increasing our chickpea area mostly because it’s profitable and helps lift yields in subsequent crops. We’re considering using WeedSeeker® technology to help reduce our herbicide use.

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

We’ve had mostly mild, dry conditions, although harvest was delayed by rain. The canola yield and quality were slightly above our long-term average. It yielded between 2t/ha and 3t/ha, with 47 per cent oil content.

The wheat and barley are set to yield about 4t/ha, also above our long-term average. Spraying glyphosate under 300ha of canola when we windrowed the crop has provided good ryegrass control, so we’re planning to re-use this approach in 2014 (this involved attaching a sprayer to the ‘cutter bar’ on the windrower).

We’re considering on-farm storage to help improve efficiency in harvesting and carting grain. We’ve finished drenching the sheep, and weaned lambs from 1600 ewes.


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Region North, South, West