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Benefits abound for long-season wheat

As well as spreading Ben Webb’s sowing window, long-season wheats are boosting his returns and lowering his crop exposure to frost risk.
Photo: Evan Collis

Economic gain has been a major driver for Ben Webb to integrate long-season wheats into his high-rainfall mixed business near Muradup in Western Australia’s Great Southern region.

Ben and his wife, Emily, farm a 2150-hectare mixed business consisting of 1350 hectares of crop and 2150 ewes. His country is duplex gravel over clay with some non-wetting areas and general pH of 5.5 to 5.7. The average annual rainfall is 535 millimetres.

Long-season wheats boost profits through live weight gain for our sheep, as well as returns from grain.

“But there are other benefits from integrating them into our system. They expand our sowing window, provide additional feed for sheep during feed gaps in the season and are a valuable tool to manage frost risk.”

Ben previously worked for the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and he is an active supporter of research and development efforts, including hosting a variety of different trial sites supported by GRDC and managed by local grower groups.

“There is real value in learning about the latest research in situ,” Ben says. He is benefiting from implementing new production approaches, underpinned by research and development, demonstrated on his farm.

He has been growing long-season wheats for about five years, having started with the variety Longsword .

“As more long-season-maturity types are becoming available, we are finding better fits for our environment and production system,” he says.

He has been hosting GRDC-invested demonstration sites managed by Dan Hester from Pedaga Investments on behalf of Southern Dirt that have included Accroc, Catapult , Denison , Illabo and Scepter . Through these trials and his own experience, Ben has identified Accroc as a better fit for his situation.

Hosting demonstration sites enables access to more-detailed measurement of the underlying science of new production approaches, as well as interaction with experts and other growers to inform his decisions.

“Accroc, a red wheat, is slightly longer-season than Longsword and Illabo . We sow it in late March to early April on our valley floors that are more prone to frost.

“We find we can graze this variety for longer and it has good recovery with minimal impact on the final grain yield.”

Ben has been selling Accroc grain into the local feedlot or direct to Bunge and says the prices have been good.

“We need to do further work to optimise our grazing management and weed control for long-season wheats, and we are looking forward to the final year of results from the Southern Dirt demonstration.”

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