Going crackers on peanuts, it's back to corn by Bernie Reppe

Grower Graham Peterson: move back to maize.

The work involved in growing up to 600 hectares of peanuts every year - and the near impossibility of finding skilled labour - have driven back South Burnett brothers Graham and Doug Peterson to growing maize and sorghum.

Graham and Doug, operating as the Hopevale Farming Company at Coolabunia, just outside Kingaroy, have continued a four-generation tradition of growing peanuts on Hopevale.

The Peterson brothers' move away from peanuts began last year when they grew their first crop of maize in 20 years, 92 hectares of Pioneer 3270, which yielded better than 5 t/ha.

"The corn had a fairly good run after a hot and dry start last year," Mr Peterson said. "It was planted in the first week in December and good rain fell later in January when the crop was about a foot (30 cm) high.

"The crop got a good season after that. It was also a good peanut season, nearly 2.5 t/ha, whereas this year we will get maybe around 0.6 t/ha."

Fertiliser revives old peanut ground

Mr Peterson said the new grain plantings on Hopevale were into old peanut ground. All their country has been farmed well over 60 or 70 years. They added plant fertiliser - muriate of potash at 110 kg/ha plus "ordinary old super" and DAP at slightly heavier rates.

All fertiliser goes on pre-plant, the potash and super - needed for its sulphur content - broadcast through a four-tonne, Normanditz twin-spinner spreader, and the DAP through a Gyral air seeder just prior to seeding, which is by a Janke-type, inclined plate planter.

"We don't fertilise with the seed at planting time; it is too much work when you are talking about 50 to 60 tonnes of fertiliser and it cuts your lanting rate by at least a third," Mr Peterson said. "Speed of planting was essential this year, with 240 hectares of peanuts and 500 hectares of maize planted in 11 days, not a bad effort on this hilly country."

Combating weeds

Weeds are a major problem on Hopevale's longcropped country.

"You name it, we've got it - datura, Noogoora burr, all the bell vines and morning glory, apple and cape gooseberries," Mr Peterson said.

"Last year we used 2,4-D for broadleaf weeds and this year atrazine on an 80-hectare paddock which nearly beat us for weeds just after the crop came up.

"The atrazine was brilliant on the broadleaf weeds but not so flash on the grasses. It will work if you get them young but not otherwise."

Hopevale is well-placed to market its maize or sorghum, in close proximity to local and coastal dairies and feedlots. Last year's maize went to buyers on the coast, some 150 kilometres away.