Growers reach for superlatives by Mike Perry
"LANG? - best thing since sliced bread." That's the view of John Dines, Toowoomba-based grains specialist with Milling Australia, and according to him there's just not enough of it around.
Lang, released by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in 2000, is an Australian Prime Hard quality milling wheat of outstanding milling and baking quality and combines these features with good straw strength, partial, but significant, resistance to black point, and moderate resistance to crown rot, common root rot and root lesion nematode.
Peter and Nikki Thompson of 'Echo Hills' , 80 km north of Roma, are growing Lang this year, for the second time. Their first experience was in 2000 and they compared Lang to Baxter and to their longterm favourites, Hartog and Sunco. "Bloody good" was Mr Thompson's assessment. "Lang out yielded all of the other varieties and had substantially higher protein compared to Hartog or Baxter."
Sunco has been the Thompsons' main variety, consistently producing APH quality and always in demand. "It's been a good variety for us, but lodging has often been a problem and Lang stood beautifully as well as having higher yield," Mr Thompson said.
Mr Thompson classifies Echo Hills' 4,000 ha of brigalow-belah country as 'southern Central Queensland'. "Winter cropping is safer than summer for us because of less insects and disease, but on average we get only 30- 50 mm rainfall 'in-crop', so sowing onto stored moisture is critical."
Innovative machinery for sowing onto moisture
Mr Thompson has designed his own 'Peterpoint' for sowing onto moisture. "Its like an F-III with swept wings and low draft that puts only 50 mm of soil over the seed however deep we go." Our machines work on 360 mm row spacing and this year we sowed from 6 to 8 inches deep (150-200 mm) and got over 80 per cent establishment with Lang." (Mr Thompson's point is being trialed in Queensland and northern NSW this year - Ed.)
He also likes the free tillering of Lang - "We only sow at 30 kg/ha because this country doesn't hang on like the Downs and we can get caught with pinched grain, but when we do get rain, we need a variety that can respond."
Tough variety for Central Highlands
In the Central Highlands, Ian Buss of 'Bambar Plains', 45 km east of Springsure, is a three-year Lang grower. "We trialed Lang on the property in 2000 against Kennedy, Baxter, Petrie, Giles and Cunningham. It was a good year and they all yielded around 5 t/ha, but what impressed us about Lang was its low screenings compared to the other varieties in what was a pretty hard finish," Mr Buss said.
'Opportunity cropping' is the way Mr Buss describes his farming system and 'Bambar Plains' is an "all-crop, stubble retention, no-till, controlled-traffic property - with machinery to match", according to Mr Buss. "We have not had disease problems but we need tough varieties for the Central Highlands and Lang seems to fit."
As an example, in 2001 Lang was sown onto moisture and received only 60 points (15 mm) rainfall between sowing and harvest. Mr Buss said Lang was still able to form its secondary roots and yielded 2.5 t/ha. It's no surprise, then, that this year there are 4,000 ha of Lang at 'Bambar Plains'.
Irrigated: 7.4 t/ha and 13 per cent protein
"Picture perfect" was Neal Pfeffer's description of his 2001 Lang crop on 'Waterloo', 70 km west of Toowoomba. "It looked healthy throughout - none of the leaf striping we often see on Kennedy." But the Pfeffers' crop turned out more than just a pretty face - it went 7.4 t/ha and was delivered as APH at 13 per cent protein.
"We sowed on a full profile and, with the cotton price down and APH up last year, the Lang got a 100 mm irrigation in mid-August," Mr Pfeffer said. "It didn't 'grow a rank bush' like some varieties (despite 200 kg/ha of urea at planting), stood well and was a pleasure to harvest."
In a message for wheat breeders, Mr Pfeffer said, "We liked Cunningham except it tended to shatter and get black point. Lang is a big improvement, but until we have varieties with weathering tolerance (resistance to pre-harvest sprouting), they have not finished the job!"
Black point tolerance
Rowland Cook of 'Trenmore', halfway between Condamine and Meandarra, has similar views. "Cunningham is a good variety for us - right maturity and high yield but we 'live in fear' of black point."
Mr Cook will never forget the year he delivered all his 'APH' as 'GP' and had been looking for a replacement for Cunningham for some time.
"We tried Lang because of its better black point tolerance, but it also stands up and stays erect well and that's important on our 'melonhole' country," Mr Cook said. "With wide equipment, if the crop goes down it can be difficult and expensive to pick up because of the undulating ground, but Lang stood up well and we will be growing it again."
Moree West competition winner
Further south, brothers Justin and Brendan Malone farm 4,000 ha of self-mulching black soils at 'Byra Garah' , 75 km north-west of Moree. The Malones grew Lang in 2001 and the crop won them the Moree West wheat competition for the year. "We didn't plan on entering it in the competition," Justin Malone said. "But the yield of about 23 bags (4.64 t/ha) at 15 per cent protein was exceptional.
"We tried Lang when we heard of its tolerance to crown rot and to black point," Mr Malone went on. "We use a two wheat-chickpea rotation to keep disease under control, but the better crown rot tolerance of Lang compared to Hartog and Sunstate is a big bonus for us." The drought has meant no winter crops were sown on 'Byra Garah' this year, but the Malones will replace Hartog and Sunstate with Lang in what they hope will be a more productive 2003.
Lang is protected under the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994; unauthorised sale of seed of the variety may be an infringement of the Act. Lang is marketed by AWB Seeds Ltd.
Program 1 Contact: Mr John Sheppard 0746398840, Mr Peter Thompton 07 4623 0217, Mr Ian Buss 07 4984 8141, Mr Neal Pfeffer 07 4893 9285, Mr Rowland Cook 07 4865 6260, Mr Justin Malone 02 8764 3448
Region North, South, West