Skip to content
menu icon

Agronomy benchmarking program builds confidence to boost nitrogen inputs

Cameron Sandral in an irrigated 2023 Scepter (PBR) wheat crop on his family’s farm near Savernake, New South Wales.
Photo: Nicole Baxter


Owners: Cameron and Pam Sandral
Farm location: Savernake, New South Wales
Area cropped: 1618 hectares (owned and leased)
Rainfall: 470 millimetres (annual mean); 830mm (2022 annual)
Soil types: red and grey loam
Topography: flat
Soil pHCa: 5 to 5.5
Enterprises: 100 per cent cropping
Crops grown: Pioneer® 44Y30RR, Hyola Blazer TT, ATR Swordfish and ATR Bonito canola; Scepter wheat; RGT Planet barley
Typical crop sequences: canola/wheat/wheat/canola, canola/wheat/barley/canola or canola/wheat/canola/wheat

Cameron Sandral says participating in GRDC’s Hyper Yielding Crops awards has given him more confidence to lift nitrogen inputs to wheat crops on his farm.

The 31-year-old continuously crops 1618 hectares near Savernake in southern New South Wales with his mother, Pam.

He completed a building apprenticeship and worked as a farmhand before taking the reins of his family’s farm six years ago.

When the farming systems group Riverine Plains sought younger growers to participate in GRDC’s Hyper Yielding Crops awards, he decided to “have a crack” to see what he could learn.

He also wanted to meet other growers who were keen to lift their yields through the program.

“Entering a paddock into the 2022 awards program prompted me to focus on the management decisions I made to grow that crop,” Cameron says.

Crop agronomy

Before sowing, he burnt narrow windrows of canola residue to reduce the carryover of herbicide-resistant weed seeds and minimise slug issues.

On 1 March 2022, he applied lime at two tonnes per hectare to ensure soil acidity would not constrain crop growth. On 15 March, he added 2.5t/ha of gypsum.

He applied paraquat (Paraquat 250) on 7 May to knock down weeds. This was followed on 11 May with trifluralin (TriflurX®480), tri-allate (Avadex® Xtra), tiafenacil (Terrad’or® herbicide), paraquat (Paraquat 250) plus adjuvant.

On 11 May, he sowed 90 kilograms/ha of Scepter wheat using a knifepoint and press wheel seeder set on 304.8mm (12-inch) row spacings. Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) was applied at 80kg/ha.

A week later, at growth stage (GS) 10, he applied aclonifen, pyroxasulfone and diflufenican (Mateno® Complete) plus Nufarm MCPA amine 750 Selective Herbicide.

He then applied 150kg/ha of urea (69kg/ha of nitrogen) on 1 June. This was followed on 1 August with a further 150kg/ha of urea (69kg/ha of nitrogen).

To manage wheat diseases, he applied prothioconazole and tebuconazole (Prosaro 420) on 25 July when the crop had reached GS31. Trinexapac-ethyl (Moddus® Evo) and chlormequat (Errex® 750) were also applied.

At GS32, on 10 August, he added epoxiconazole (Epoxiconazole 125) to prevent disease.

When the flag leaf had fully emerged at GS39, he applied tebuconazole (Tebuconazole 430) for added disease protection.

After 830 millimetres of rainfall for the year and 456.5mm for the growing season, Cameron harvested the paddock on 22 December.

Grain yields

Although 30 per cent of the crop was destroyed by water flowing through it for six weeks, weighbridge tickets confirmed a 6.2t/ha yield. This was about 0.5t/ha better than the rest of his wheat in 2022.

Cameron says the entire crop was sold into the H2 (11.5 per cent protein) grade, which suggests plenty of nitrogen was available to the crop.

His estimated potential yield was calculated at 9.19t/ha. However, this was calculated assuming there were no agronomic constraints, such as disease, nutritional issues, lodging, heat, frost or waterlogging.

In the case of Cameron’s paddock, 30 per cent of the Scepter (PBR) crop was destroyed when it went under water.

TechCrop Services issued an agronomy benchmarking report to Cameron as part of the awards program. It indicated solar radiation was lower than average through September and October, which limited yield compared to the water-limited potential during the critical period for grain development.

Cameron’s crop achieved 67.1 per cent of its estimated yield potential, earning him the 2022 GRDC Hyper Yielding Crops award for the ‘Highest yield as a percentage of yield potential’ for southern NSW and northern Victoria.

Lessons learned

Cameron says one lesson he learned from participating in GRDC’s Hyper Yielding Crops awards is the importance of avoiding lodging crops.

“I use plant growth regulators to keep crops standing,” he says. “When they fall over, the stalk kinks, which reduces water and nutrient supply to the head. Standing crops also mean we do not have to take as much straw through the machine at harvest, which keeps the harvester running efficiently.”

He also learned the value of proactively applying fungicides to varieties with higher disease susceptibility to prevent infection before symptoms appear.

“We like to be ahead of the game with our fungicide management, especially with Scepter, as it is more susceptible to some key diseases,” he says.

Last year, Cameron entered an irrigated paddock of Scepter wheat into the 2023 GRDC Hyper Yielding Crops awards.

He added higher nitrogen inputs to the crop after seeing he had the capacity to lift yields through better crop nutrition in 2022.

“I added 350kg/ha of urea across three applications to my 2023 Scepter crop,” he says. “I would have applied more urea, but it was unavailable.”

Winners of the 2023 GRDC Hyper Yielding Crops awards will be announced later this year.

More information: Cameron Sandral,

back to top