2016 starts with summer moisture management

Matthew Steber and his self-propelled boomsprays

Matthew Steber: prepared to work his self-propelled boomsprays through the night to maximise weed control.

PHOTO: Evan Collis

Matthew Steber is a happy man even though he describes last year as an average season on his property near Doodlakine, 230 kilometres east of Perth.

The 48-year-old, who crops 10,800 hectares, says parts of his family’s farm fared well for rain, but other areas were too dry.

When Ground Cover caught up with Matthew while he was harvesting canola, he was upbeat. He estimated the canola would average 0.8 to 1 tonne per hectare and the wheat about 2t/ha. However, he does not put too much weight on average yields. For him it is all about profit per hectare.

While Matthew says only three millimetres of September rainfall and above-average temperatures took the cream off what the harvest could have been, he is content with the returns he has made and is looking forward to 2016.

For the Stebers, summer spraying is now front-of-mind to conserve any summer moisture for the winter cropping program.

Until this year, Matthew cropped 95 per cent of his family’s property and mated up to 1000 ewes, but he is selling the sheep so all resources can be focused on cropping and the implementation of an opportunistic fallow.

While the sheep produced a reasonable return, Matthew says they compromised his crop agronomy and the money earned from the sheep did not warrant the time he needed to spend on them.

“The biggest problem we had was trying to find paddocks to leave out of the cropping program so they had enough feed in winter,” he says. “Those that we left out really didn’t have a lot of feed because we endeavour to grow clean crops.”

Without sheep, every effort will be made to control all weeds when they are small, even if that means working his two self-propelled boomspray units through the night to achieve a better weed kill.

He has used the money from the sale of the sheep to buy a WeedSeeker®.

“For summer spraying, if I’m lucky, I might be able to encourage one of my boys to give me a hand to drive our other self-propelled boomspray,” he chuckles.

Mr Steber says storing every drop of summer moisture and available soil nitrogen through effective weed control is one of the most important pre-sowing tasks on the farm.

As key farm decision-maker, Matthew prefers to do a fair portion of the spraying himself because he feels the more he goes over the paddocks the more he learns.

Indeed, effective weed control and timely sowing are two of the “big things” he likes to do well in his goal to maximise profit on every hectare of land under his care.

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Region West