Dry conditions complicate seeding

GroundCover 2019 grower series: dry conditions affect seeding plans


Agronomy
DB Group general manager agriculture, Evan Lord, Mirrool, NSW, in a crop of 43Y23 canola windrowed in early November 2018. PHOTO Nicole Baxter

DB Group general manager agriculture, Evan Lord, Mirrool, NSW, in a crop of 43Y23 canola windrowed in early November 2018. PHOTO Nicole Baxter

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Installment two - tracking Australia's croppers as the winter season sowing starts.

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Each year, GroundCover follows a group of growers from across Australia as they manage the winter cropping season. This is the second installment in the 2019 series, and sowing is underway.

VICTORIA

Bernard and Simone Lindsay farm at Lah, in Victoria's northern Wimmera. They grow wheat, barley, canola, lentils, faba beans and vetch for hay. They also run 600 Merino ewes.

Significant rainfall received in December (110 millimetres) and February (30mm) meant that a couple of rounds of summer spraying were required.

But in light of the subsoil moisture benefits, that was a good problem to have.

Read the first installment of the series here: GroundCover grower series highlights the value of precision management

We've been preparing for sowing, making changes to the head kit on the disc seeder and grading the seed.

We've also focused on fencing. We have pulled out some existing fences to create bigger paddocks, and aligned the new fencing with the AB lines in our CTF system.

We cut all our crops for hay last year, so we out-loaded that during March and April.

Seeding is planned to start on 20 April into good subsoil moisture.

We aim to put the sheep feed in first and are follow with canola, vetch, wheat, lentils and finally barley. If things go to plan, we hope to be finished before the end of May.

NEW SOUTH WALES

Evan and Katrina Lord farm at Mirrool in south-western NSW as part of the DB Group, with Matt and Sam Dart and Richard and Trudi West. They grow wheat, barley, canola, lupins, vetch for brown manure and oats for feed. They also run 1800 Dohne ewes.

We experienced some isolated summer storms across the area. There were some handy falls if you got under them, but other places missed out.

We did some sporadic summer spraying, while some paddocks were still bare. We had to look at what was economical to control.

Leading up to sowing, we completed maintenance on the seeders, graded seed and moved some grain.

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Over March and April, gypsum and lime was spread on the paddocks.

We began seeding sheep feed in March and main season canola and wheat will start in mid-April.

As with previous years, we have stuck to our usual rotation. We are slightly back on canola hectares for risk mitigation this year, but otherwise we plant to averages.

From here on we will monitor any early weed germinations, begin the post-emergent spraying program and some early top-dressing of canola.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

David Giddings and partner Kerri and their children Amelia and Jiah farm at Wanilla on the Lower Eyre Peninsula. They grow wheat, barley, canola and lupins and run 3500 Merino ewes, of which 1500 are mated to Merinos and 2000 are mated to Dorsets.

We've had no significant rain since October last year, so it's very dry, however this didn't hurt us over the summer.

The stubbles provided good feed for the sheep and there were no lupinosis issues.

It's been flat-out the past couple of months spreading lime and gypsum - 1200 tonnes of each.

The cropping paddocks get two tonnes per hectare of gypsum prior to every canola crop and the lime is predominantly applied to the pasture paddocks for maintenance.

We've also been spreading single superphosphate on pastures at 200 kilograms/ha.

If you're running 10 DSE, you really need 10 units of phosphorus per hectare and we're applying double that. The pastures are not deficient, but the more phosphorus you have, the better the broadleaf pasture species such as clover grow.

Dry sowing usually begins around 15 April, but we plan to start a little earlier this year due to Easter.

We avoid dry sowing into unrenovated soils, however these only represent around five per cent of the program. We leave those until it rains.

TASMANIA

Simon Burgess farms at Conara in the Northern Midlands of Tasmania, as an operating partner in a private equity business. He crops wheat, canola, poppies, barley and faba beans. He also runs 300 Angus breeders, backgrounds and agists steers for Tas Feedlot, and has a breeding flock of 2500 ewes.

We had a decent rain event at the beginning of February, which postponed some of the spring harvest, but assisted with the germination of fodder crops and the germination of weeds in the summer fallows.

It's been dry since then and we don't have much in the way of stored soil moisture.

In the lead-up to sowing, we cleaned seed, and obtained germination and seed rate tests to determine sowing rates.

The livestock went onto crop stubbles in conjunction with summer fallow sprays and we raked and burnt poppy stubble to assist with disease management and minimising crop residues.

We aim to start sowing the cereals in mid-to-late April. We are fairly flexible in our rotation.

We have a high-level rotation set two to three years out and this is adjusted late in the season based on the weed burden.

Once the crops are in, we'll be monitoring germination and weed strike to get the first herbicide applications on, and that will then govern the timing of the nutrient program.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Tim and Victoria Harrington and their children Rose, Louis, Sofia and Eve farm at Darkan in Western Australia's high-rainfall zone in the south-west of the state. They crop barley and canola. They also run 5500 ewes and 800 wethers.

The past couple of months have involved getting all the gear ready for seeding: maintenance on the seeders, boom sprays, trucks, etc. We did some lime spreading across 800ha in mid-to-late March at 2t/ha.

We had a small fall of rain - about 10mm - in early March accompanied by a week of cool conditions. It was amazing how much germination that encouraged in the pastures and in self-seeded canola.

The cool conditions allowed the seed dormancy to break, and there was a lot of discussion in our chat group about control options.

Although I tend to stick to a set rotation each year, this year I plan to put more wheat in and back-off on the barley for agronomic reasons.

I also have a lot of sheep work going on. The rams are out, we are pregnancy scanning, lambing and drenching and all of that has to be managed around the cropping operations.

QUEENSLAND

Stephen Gibson farms with parents Brian and Kaylene and sister Ann-Maree at Dulacca on Queensland's Western Downs. They crop wheat, barley, chickpeas, sorghum and mungbeans.

We've had no rain since mid-December and a run of very warm weather, so things are very dry.

We managed to get on top of the weeds that resulted from last year's wet harvest, where the grass got up and away before harvest was complete.

Our biggest concern now with the lack of rain is residual herbicides. We normally need 200mm of rain to be safe and we've only had half that.

We traditionally start planting on Anzac Day but the past few years we have had to moisture-seek due to dry weather.

We plant barley first then switch to wheat, and finish with chickpeas, which we've planted up to 25 centimetres deep. We then wait for the next change to plant the remainder. The early wheat often yields more and misses the frost.

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