With 50 millimetres of rain falling over the Easter break, Griffith grower Michael Pfitzner cannot recall a better start to the season.
After a drought in 2018, when just 87mm fell from April to the start of October in more than 30 rainfall events this year's early break has given the Pfitzner family a big confidence boost heading into 2019.
"Last year was one of the worst seasons we have experienced in the past 10 years in terms of rainfall," Michael says.
"Interestingly though, our yields weren't the worst on record because we still had residual subsoil moisture carried over from floods in 2016, which supported us through the early part of the 2018 season and allowed for reasonable crop establishment."
Another 30mm in October last year brought the 2018 total growing season rainfall to just less than 120mm for the season.
After the welcome opening rains this year, the Pfitzners began their seeding program by sowing lupins and canola.
With soil temperatures at about 19 to 20 degrees Celsius in late April, good early establishment will pave the way for a much-improved season ahead.
Using controlled-traffic farming (CTF) for the past decade, the Pfitzners have seen many benefits, not least of which is improved trafficability across wet paddocks.
Despite the 50mm of opening rains, the family has been able to get an early start to seeding without any messy paddocks.
The Pfitzners do not crop their tramlines, which are hardened by many years of vehicle movement. This allows year-round easy access to paddocks and provides crops with access to extra water as run-off.
"I have been farming for 30 years and implementing CTF has been the most exciting part of my farming career," Michael says.
The Pfitzners have large areas of red sandy loam which, Michael says, do not have the shrink and swell capabilities of the clay soils found in Queensland, meaning compaction is a significant issue on the family's property.
"We've seen a lot of evidence since we implemented CTF a decade ago of improved plant growth in our non-trafficked soils, so if we keep the wheels off the paddocks and get the roots growing through the soil, the roots themselves create channels that the next crop of roots can follow," he says.
Michael says the real benefits of CTF can be seen in the drier years, when water harvesting is critical.
"The benefits of CTF are not so obvious in the wet years, but we seem to have had more drier years recently and have seen visual improvements in plant biomass, reduced weed problems and big yield increases which we attribute to CTF," he says.
More information: GRDC's Controlled Traffic Farming Factsheet