NSW growers yield to highland goals

Northern Region article

By Bernie Reppel

It"s in the "paddock of dreams" for most graingrowers: a crop in which water is not the limiting factor and control of other inputs, like disease protection, nutrition and more intensive crop management allow you to chase yield, yield and more yield.

Meticulous attention to detail: agronomist Donald McMurrich in the replicated variety trial, seeking a small range of varities specifically for irrigation farmersBut this, with a target of 10 tonnes per hectare, has been the lure dangled by Gunnedah agronomist Donald McMurrich in front of growers on NSW"s north-west slopes.

Over three years more than a dozen growers have found enough irrigation water to try the "European" production system advocated by Mr McMurrich, a sales agronomist with Cotton Grower Services. Most have put in 100 to 300 hectares but one corporate grower has installed more than 500 irrigated hectares.

Photo: Meticulous attention to detail: agronomist Donald McMurrich in the replicated variety trial, seeking a small range of varieties specifically for irrigation farmers.

Scottish Mr McMurrich has experience of the high-input, high-yield cropping systems common in Europe, and he saw no reason why that style could not be adapted for Australia, at least on irrigation farms.

He demands meticulous attention to detail:

Mr McMurrich uses the Zadoks system to time applications of plant growth regulators, fungicides and nitrogen.

While no one has reached the 10-tonne mark, the best is not far off at 8.6 t/ha and Mr McMurrich says he has seen enough to convince him the "European" approach will work on northern, irrigated farms.

With high inputs raising questions about the genetic yield potential of current commercial varieties, he has included some experimental wheat lines in 2004 trials.

He also believes that proper use of seed treatments and fungicide sprays should allow the retention in irrigated systems of some better yielding varieties prone to problems, such as rust.

For more information: Donald McMurrich, donaldmcmurrich@cgs.com.au

PBR Varieties displaying this symbol beside them are protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994.