TOPCROP™ lifting the bottom line by Tim Slater

Being able to obtain exact figures for each hectare cropped is a major benefit of the TOPCROP™ program, according to a farming family from Newdegate in Western Australia.

Ian and Kay Walker received a TOPCROP™ West award recently for a water-use efficiency rating of 98 per cent or 19.6 kg/mm of rain, resulting in a yield of 2.87 t/ha on a Spear crop (APW grade), a significant increase from their previous eight-year average of 1.96 t/ha.

The award winning crop provided a gross margin of $414.28/ha with a growing season rainfall of 226 mm and a protein content of 11.7 per cent.

"The most important benefit of the program is information on per hectare expenses, income and gross margins," Mr Walker said. "That is the bottom line, we have to make money out of it and it gives us an accurate guide to see where we are going."

The Walkers' 4,050-hectare farm is about 45 kilometres southeast of Newdegate. Its soil types range from heavy clay to sand over clay to lighter sands comprising the bulk of the property, and it is cropped at 60 per cent each year.

Mr Walker selected two paddocks, one each of wheat and barley, to monitor with TOPCROP™, but he also keeps records of the whole farm's cropping program on computer.

Crop monitoring

Monitoring included watching plant growth at all stages, keeping records of seeding rates, seed treatment, fertiliser, herbicides and machinery passes as well as seeding and harvest dates.

"I also recorded costings of these operations and rainfall, both total and during the crop growing period as well as grain loads and quality which came off the paddocks," Mr Walker said.

The couple has been involved with the TOPCROP™ program (previously called Crop Check) for two years. TOPCROP™ provided some teething challenges to the Newdegate Crop Improvement Group relating to the complexity of seasonal booklets and software. But the group persevered and received assistance from the GRDC for the employment of a farm adviser, and the program has won over farmers like the Walkers.

Since being involved in TOPCROP™ the Walkers have decided to change their crop rotation to three crops and two pastures, and they have also been able to compare their costs to other farmers in the program.