Sam Ballantyne was surprised to discover one of his family’s wheat paddocks yielded enough grain to take out the ‘highest yield’ category in the 2022 GRDC Hyper Yielding Crops award for South Australia.
While 2022 was dogged by cloudy days, waterlogging and plenty of disease pressure, the family’s 43-hectare paddock of Anapurna wheat yielded 10.6 tonnes per hectare near Clay Wells in South Australia’s south-east.
Season 2022 was the family’s second year of entering a paddock into the awards. Their 2021 entry yielded just more than 11t/ha.
Sam uses the entries to determine their upper grain yield limit and identify tactics to lift average yield across the farm.
In 2022, Anapurna seed, treated with imidacloprid and tebuconazole, was sown at 110 kilograms/ha on 22 May into a broad bean stubble.
A 130kg/ha blend of monoammonium phosphate and urea was applied through the drill at seeding.
A combination of granular urea and liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) was applied at late tillering and growth stages 30, 31 and 37. This was to sustain the supply of nitrogen required to build the crop canopy and fill the grain. The total nitrogen applied over the season was 191kg/ha.
RapiSol 3-2-1, comprising foliar-applied copper, manganese and zinc to counter high soil calcium levels – which tie-up trace elements – was applied three times throughout the growing season.
“A strategy we have been working on over the past few years has been to apply nutrients strategically and split across multiple applications to combat denitrification and trace element deficiencies,” Sam says.
Fungicides were applied proactively at growth stages 32, 39 and 65. Insecticides to control barley yellow dwarf virus were applied three times.
A plant growth regulator was applied to prevent lodging and improve the efficiency of harvesting.
The Ballantyne family’s award-winning crop was harvested on 13 January 2023. Weighbridge tickets showed 10.6t/ha.
Waterlogging and less sun during the critical and grain-filling periods limited grain yield potential, resulting in a lower yield than their 2021 entry.
The Ballantynes credit Field Applied Research (FAR) Australia’s Nick Poole and GRDC’s Hyper Yielding Crops trials at Millicent with having helped to lift many growers’ yields.
The Hyper Yielding Crops Focus Paddocks program has also helped to support MacKillop Farm Management Group grower members to conduct paddock trials to test and apply learnings.
“We’ve seen up to a 30 per cent improvement in yields compared with five years ago,” Sam says.
The 28-year-old says he is inspired by many MacKillop Farm Management Group grower members, but particularly Bruce McLean, who also received a 2022 GRDC Hyper Yielding Crops award.