Genetics continuum keeps the profit margin open
After considering the results of GRDC-supported National Variety Trials (NVT) on his property and across south-west New South Wales, mixed farmer Mike O’Hare dropped the Australian Prime Hard variety Suntop from his cropping program in favour of the new Australian Hard variety Beckom.
Mike and his wife Velia farm near Beckom, NSW, about 110 kilometres north-west of Wagga Wagga. Mike says the new wheat will be grown until a superior main-season or quick-finishing winter wheat is released.
In 2015 Beckom yielded 3.77 tonnes per hectare and has out-yielded Suntop over several seasons. It also has fewer screenings, is shorter and is reportedly more tolerant to harvest sprouting.
Australian Grain Technologies gave Beckom its name to honour the O’Hare family’s 63-year contribution to the Australian wheat industry.
Mike and his family have hosted variety trials since 1953, after Mike’s late father Phil met the late
Ron Martin, a NSW Agriculture wheat breeder, at a Temora field day.
When Ground Cover caught up with Mike, he planned to complete sowing by 10 May.
Mike sows on 152-millimetre row spacings using conventional 115mm points and finger harrows. “I’m becoming trendy now, sowing on narrow row spacings,” he says with a wry smile.
Although narrow row spacings allow crops to compete well with weeds, he is aware of the need to preserve the efficacy of glyphosate and likes to use wider points and several other tactics to slow the development of herbicide resistance.
To do this, he has developed a low-input mixed-farming system based on hard-seeded pasture legumes comprising a pure stand of Casbah biserrula and a mix of Bartolo bladder clover and Prima gland clover.
“Roughly two-thirds of our income is derived from crops and one-third from sheep,” Mike says. “Pastures underpin the financial and agronomic health of our business.”
The competitive nature of biserrula helps to ‘smother’ ryegrass and sheep preferentially graze ryegrass, which helps stop seed-set. In year two the pastures are spray fallowed before seed-set and kept weed-free before being worked once in preparation for canola.
Mike prefers to sow open-pollinated (OP) canola to keep costs down and is a strong advocate for growers paying their end point royalties to ensure private plant breeders have the resources to keep developing superior OP varieties.