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Growers key in getting new varieties to market

A few showers delayed this season's peanut harvest at Dave Humphreys' property north-west of Brisbane. Dave, pictured with full-season variety Kairi (PBR), bulks-up new peanut varieties.
Photo: Rebecca Thyer

For nearly three decades, Queensland grower Dave Humphreys has been playing a critical role in the release of new peanut varieties, bulking-up seed for release by the Peanut Company of Australia (PCA) through the GRDC-supported Australian Peanut Breeding Program.

One such variety is Taabinga. With its imminent release this year, Taabinga marks an exciting moment in the breeding program because it is the first Australian early maturity variety to combine very good foliar disease resistance with very high kernel yield potential.

Dave, who farms 500 hectares in the rolling hills at Harlin, 110 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, has also been growing full-season variety Kairi, increasing seed volumes for PCA.

Although he operates a predominantly cattle grazing enterprise, Dave's 25ha of irrigated flat land are vital in the early stages of commercialisation, says PCA seed agronomist Dan O'Connor.

"We need growers who are experienced, meticulous and have incredible attention to detail. For example, machinery has to be cleaned constantly to ensure varietal purity," he says.

Seed is sent to growers like Dave to bulk-up after breeders produce mother seed. Typically these growers take new releases through three seed-production levels, getting seed ready for commercial release.

As well as growing new releases, Dave is also trialling new planting equipment, a decision made after a failed corn planting last year.

With much research, he decided on a US-produced Monosem twin-row planter, a vacuum planter with double discs. It replaces a second-hand planter bought by the family 25 years ago.

Although it was an expensive undertaking, Dave says the need for a new planter was evident after taking into account the cost of plantings failing to take. His Monosem planter sows in a diamond pattern with a staggered seed drop to help increase yields.

The twin rows are 200 millimetres apart and 100mm off the centres, matching conventional harvesting machinery.

The thinking behind it is that by better positioning the seeds, there is more space between plants, maximising photosynthesis, decreasing competition for nutrients and moisture, reducing weed pressure and shading the ground to reduce evaporation.

For Dave, the next step is GPS autosteer.

"That would allow me to plant corn in the middle of the peanut rows with precision, making the most of the soil nitrogen left behind."

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