Beverley growers Adam and Rebecca Smith have taken wheat out of their continuous grains cropping enterprise for the first time since they returned to the family farm in 2012.
With frost continuing to be a major challenge for the farm business, Adam says barley has been outperforming wheat on average, at more than $90 per hectare net, for many years.
The Smiths, who farm with Adam's parents Richard and Di, enjoyed one of their best seasons last year, but wheat still performed poorly compared to barley.
While this might be an unusual move for a wheatbelt farming business, Adam says the numbers simply don't work for wheat to be grown on their property any longer. "Barley is out-producing wheat year-in, year-out in terms of yield, and out-performing it in a profit sense, even with the higher wheat prices in 2018," he says.
"Every year we have been getting closer and closer to phasing wheat out of our system, and this will be the first year we won't have wheat in the system."
Taking wheat out of their rotation and increasing the number of hectares planted to barley also allowed for better weed control.
This year the Smiths have planted barley, canola and lupins, and no longer have sheep in their rotation.
Adam says frost affected the business severely last year because of the reliance on dry sowing.
"All the wheat went in dry and so it all germinated at the same time on the opening rains, and then all flowered at the same time in September, which coincided with the frost," he says.
"One hundred per cent of our wheat had some frost damage last year, and we saw a 40 per cent yield reduction as a result."
Frost isn't their only constraint. The Smiths farm on the western edge of the central wheatbelt and receive almost 400 millimetres of rainfall annually, which can present the business with waterlogging problems during the growing season.
Adam and Rebecca have implemented a fully matched controlled-traffic farming system which, among other benefits, allows improved trafficability in paddocks during the wetter periods. "We can now get on to our paddocks, even after a lot of rain, without making a mess in the paddocks," Adam says.
The next stage in the Smiths' business strategy is to one-way plough large sections of the property each year to improve non-wetting soils.
"Now that we are running the machines on a controlled-traffic system, we can confidently invest in soil amelioration strategies such as the one-way plough, knowing this investment will be protected from heavy vehicles," he says.
More information: Adam Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org