Crop monitoring a priority as harvest nears

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Gavin and Alison Morgan farm about 30 kilometres north of Kellerberrin in Western Australia’s central wheatbelt. They crop wheat, barley and lupins, and run sheep.

The season is progressing well following good rainfall and warm conditions, which have led to exceptional growth.

We’ve finished our spraying program to control winter weeds, such as ryegrass and wild radish. The insect pressure in our crops has been low. However, we’re monitoring the barley and wheat for powdery mildew and yellow spot, respectively, due to the moist conditions.

We’ve applied urea across our cropping program and we plan to top up some of our cereal paddocks with Flexi-N.

The new workshop is still underway and our pre-harvest machinery maintenance is next on the agenda.

The good seasonal conditions have boosted our lambing percentages, and we recently planted saltbush to improve areas of degraded soil and provide fodder and shelter for the sheep. We are also working on monitoring crops for disease, attending field days, buying rams and having a holiday.

James and Marika Yewers farm at Mingenew and Morawa in WA’s central west. They crop wheat, barley, canola and lupins, and run sheep on agistment.

Our crops are looking deep green and healthy after receiving 95mm of rain in the past two months. However, the emergence of our dry-sown crops is patchy because they were too deeply seeded before the heavy opening rain.

Plague and spur-throated locusts have damaged our lupins and cropping areas near native vegetation. Using a plane to blanket-spray crops was mostly effective, but hindsight shows we needed to treat the bushland surrounding our property, instead of spraying from 100 metres inside the perimeter. Adult locusts are active and new hatchings were recently observed.

Boggy on-farm conditions meant we had to finish post-emergent spraying by plane. The wet weather also prevented us from using a loader on our paddocks to remove rocks as planned.

We are now concentrating on crop monitoring to determine whether a foliar fungicide application is needed. Other work includes cleaning up the property, preparing for harvest and attending field days.

Ham and Ros Ackland farm at Bowhill in SA’s Mallee, about 30km north-west of Karoonda. They crop mainly wheat and malting barley, and have recently been growing safflower.

Our opening rain was limited and arrived late, but since then rainfall has been average. Our canola is looking reasonable, however the vetch is poor. Crop coverage in our cereals is thin and there are large areas with no plants showing.

We had two main problems with seeding that have affected crop emergence. There was not enough pressure on the tynes, which meant our sowing was shallow and seed was left on the surface where it was exposed to mice. Fertiliser toxicity was also a problem using single shooting, mostly due to the dry conditions. Crops sown following rain were not affected.

We applied fertiliser to our canola, followed by an application of grass-selective herbicide and zinc. We’ve overcome most of the teething problems with our new sprayer. The new camera system fitted to the bin lids of our airseeder is allowing us to clearly view product levels and accurately position the airseeder cart under the loading auger. Cameras were also fitted on the pallet forks of the front-end loader to avoid rupturing the 1000-litre containers.

We recently observed high levels of rhizoctonia across our district from a plane. However, it’s difficult to assess its severity because we haven’t examined the area by plane before and the district is prone to rhizoctonia. Mouse activity has declined but we expect it to increase in spring.

It’s been hard to be optimistic, but we are trying to put our difficulties behind us. We’re focusing on monitoring for weeds and diseases, and preparing for high levels of cereal rust late in the season. We plan to spray affected areas and plant safflower to control weeds and encourage beneficial soil organisms.

Three generations of the Schodde family, including (from left) Craig, Kurtis, Lindsey, May and Claudia, on farm at Murtoa, in Victoria's Wimmera region.Craig Schodde and his wife Sonia farm at Murtoa, 37km north-east of Horsham in Victoria’s Wimmera. Run as two partnerships (one is held by Craig’s parents Lindsey and May), the farm grows wheat, barley, canola, lentils, faba beans and chickpeas. In the past they have planted fenugreek and peas, along with sorghum, millet, sunflowers and safflower as summer-grain and ground-cover crops.

Rainfall has been slightly below average, but there has been enough to sustain the potential in our canola, faba beans, chickpeas, wheat and barley.

Overall, crop emergence has been good, but there is mouse damage in some areas. The canola is the worst affected by mice, with large bare patches. However, the wheat appears untouched as it was sown later when our baiting program was more advanced.

We’ve finished supplementing most crops with nitrogen fertiliser at varying rates through the boomspray using stream jet nozzles, and the legumes were sprayed with zinc and herbicide. The cereals were also sprayed with herbicides to control a scattering of broadleaf weeds, but generally, the crops have been clean.

Our crops are showing no signs of disease and insect pressure so far, probably because we treated most of our seed with fungicide and insecticide as a precautionary measure following the high rainfall last year. We plan to use this approach again in the future when necessary.

We recently bought a Grizzly wheel track renovator for repairing our three-metre tramlines and major maintenance is being done on our New Holland TR98 header. Two unwanted machines were sold to help with our finances.

We applied a knockdown spray to 130ha in preparation for a summer crop – either safflower or sorghum – which will be sown into double cereal stubble (barley on wheat). Monitoring for weeds, diseases and insects and particularly mice is a strong focus to help crops take advantage of the subsoil moisture.

Our tax work, accounts and marketing are ongoing, and we recently sold and delivered part of our 2010 chickpea crop. The outlook for the season is positive, although rain will be needed in spring.

Charlie Buchanan farms 55km east of Walgett in north-west NSW with his parents Bill and Fiona. The family crops wheat, chickpeas, canola and faba beans, and runs 330 Angus cattle and a few Dorper sheep.

We haven’t had much rain, so the crops are looking water-stressed, particularly where we cultivated and levelled the paddocks to repair damage from the wet harvest.

Feral pigs digging up seeds have damaged our chickpeas and faba beans. As a result, we’ve had to resow 60ha of chickpeas and use a helicopter to control pig numbers.

We recently sprayed our faba beans with a fungicide and herbicide mix, and we plan to spray the chickpeas for ascochyta blight, but our spraying program has been limited by lack of rain.

More rain is also needed to soak in the 140kg/ha of urea that we have spread on the canola paddocks. We recently invested in a 30-foot (9.14-metre) weed wiper boom from the US for a front-end loader to control regrowth of woody weeds on our grazing country.

We’ve finished grading last year’s weathered chickpeas for delivery to Moree as feed, so our fencing work has been on hold.

We are concentrating on monitoring the crops for weeds, diseases, insects and pests, and delivering grain to ensure our on-farm storage is ready for harvest.

Neal and Amanda Johansen farm at Dixalea, about 62km north of Biloela in central Queensland. They crop mungbeans, wheat, soybeans, sorghum and chickpeas.

It’s been a dry winter, with below-average rainfall. The lack of rain is showing in the late-sown wheat. However, the wheat sown earlier in April has matured on the moisture available and we expect it to yield about 3t/ha.

Mice have damaged some crops, particularly the early wheat, so our paddocks were baited using the spreader on the spray rig. Most of our wheat has been treated with an in-crop herbicide to control weeds, particularly poppy and turnip varieties, which are the main winter weeds in our area.

Machinery maintenance is ongoing and we are focused on fine-tuning the harvester.

We hope to sell the remainder of our spring and summer mungbean crops before the harvest begins, but we are waiting for prices to improve. Our main focus now is preparing for harvest.

- By Clarisa Collis


Region National, North, South, West