Cereals are still king of rotations in Gavin Hooper’s low-rainfall cropping environment 260 kilometres due east of Perth at Corrigin. With his typical rotation being a chemical fallow followed by two to four cereal crops, Gavin has been on the hunt for a high-value pulse to suit his country and rotations for several years.
Consequently, the Hoopers have been involved in several GRDC projects and other industry trials aiming to identify pulses adapted for their environment. Trials have involved tracking several years of rotation crops and gathering yield, disease and weed information together with calculating gross margins and cumulative gross margins.
“It is necessary work and one thing we have learned so far is that a good, clean fallow can improve break crop performance,” Gavin says.
“But as yet the work has still to deliver a reliable and profitable pulse for us.”
“We have learnt that you really need to play the seasons in our environment and what we need here are shorter-growing-season types, potentially with cold tolerance.”
“But with more advanced tools coming on-line to control herbicide-resistant weeds there is potential for pulses in our environment,” Gavin says.
Cereal crops account for 60 to 70 per cent of paddocks sown in any one year in Western Australia, with the remaining area sown to a range of crop and pastures – canola, lupins, clover, volunteer pasture, or left as fallow.
Finding a reliable pulse
“Fallow/cereal rotations are the most robust rotation at present for our environment,” Gavin says.
“We are yet to find a consistently reliable pulse that can deal with our low rainfall and biological constraints associated with high pH and heavy soil types.”
“We need also to grow a high-value pulse on sufficient scale to make it worthwhile, as marketing is a challenge and we don’t want to be left storing grain.”
In the coming year Gavin will be considering white lupins for newly leased lighter country to manage barley grass that has become a problem in continuous cereal sequences.
Nathan Craig, the chief executive of West Midlands Group, which has been overseeing the break crop work, notes that as crop sequences evolve, they will ideally be tailored to each environment as more is learnt about biological constraints and potential issues with herbicide-resistant weeds.
More information: Gavin Hooper, 0427 632 094, firstname.lastname@example.org