Western croppers seek yield answers

Croppers seek variable yield answers


Cropping
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Western district croppers Graeme Moyle and his son Rowan are hoping to finally get answers to a problem which has nagged at them for years – variable yields across the same paddock.

Western district croppers Graeme Moyle and his son Rowan are hoping to finally get answers to a problem which has nagged at them for years – variable yields across the same paddock.

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The father and son team run Kelrowan, Hensley Park, where they grow wheat, canola and faba beans on 850 hectares.

“What we have found this year, after a reasonably wet year, our (canola) yields in the one paddock went from half a tonne to two tonne, to seven and a half,” Mr Moyle said.

“In wheat we were harvesting between five tonnes, and in places seventeen and a half tonnes. What’s causing the issues, is it soil structure, is it soil type, is it fertility? We don’t know.” 

Cropping in a high rainfall band, east of Hamilton, the Moyle family first moved into the area from the Mallee, in the early 1960s.

ON FARM: Wheat from last year's crop was being stored on farm, in grain bags and silos and would be sold, when prices improve. Photo: Andrew Miller.

ON FARM: Wheat from last year's crop was being stored on farm, in grain bags and silos and would be sold, when prices improve. Photo: Andrew Miller.

MAINTENANCE WORK: Graeme Moyle took time to do some maintenance work, following this year's harvest.

MAINTENANCE WORK: Graeme Moyle took time to do some maintenance work, following this year's harvest.

With rainfall of up to 700 millimetres a year, mostly in winter, Mr Moyle said laser drains, raised beds and agricultural pipe were installed to take water off the paddocks.

Initially, they were running 6000 sheep, but gave them away in 2008, and have been in “serious cropping” since.

STORAGE OPTIONS: On-farm silos are one of the options, used to store this year's crop.

STORAGE OPTIONS: On-farm silos are one of the options, used to store this year's crop.

For the past three years, the faba beans – planted to get nitrogen into the soil – had been struggling.

“The beans are putting nitrogen back in, but we are not making enough money off them to be viable, so we have to look at some other operations now.”

Last season, the Moyles planted Trojan, Manning, Kiora and Revenue wheat and Garnet and Hyola 599 Canola.

The wheat went APW and H2, in the higher yielding areas, while lower yields produced ASW grades. “With the canola, we had 48 per cent of oil, that was another $40 a tonne, on top of price,” he said.

A Seed Hawk with parallelogram and pressed wheel was used to plant wheat at a depth of between 25-30mm, while canola was usually just sprinkled on top of the soil.

“We are trying to get as many plant numbers in there as possible, with good tillers, and at the end of the season, plenty of grain.”

The long, wet winter brought out issues with chemicals not lasting enough to combat weeds, and a rise in ryegrass, toadrush “and all the trash, under the sun”.

“Last year, we had total rainfall of 840mm, which is too much,” he said.

That resulted in a program of burning stubbles, to help clean up the weeds.

Rotation of canola, cereal and legumes was important to break up diseases and chemical resistance, “and also, you can’t have all your eggs in the one basket, from a marketing point of view”.

But Mr Moyle said this year it was hope to finally find answers to the question of yield variability.

“We run GPS, which is autosteering, on the boom, the header and the air seeder and we are logging all that information, whether we are scarifying, spraying, sowing, harvesting, or doing the first application of fertiliser,” Mr Moyle said.

“Everything is logged, when you go into those paddocks, time and date, you just have to be spot on, with your records.”

The farm used a John Deere S680 header, with a 40-foot draper front.

Mr Moyle said the next step would be to map the entire paddock, for phosphorous, potash and sulphur, to get a reading “and see if there are any inconsistencies”.

“We put out 200kg of single super and 60kgs of potash (per hectare), up front, before sowing, so the whole paddock has got the same application, over the same area, so why the variation?”

He said it was a constant process of fine tuning.

 “You can’t just go along and be complacent, you have to try and fine tune any operation, to get the best out of it, and it’s no different to any big business.

“We can’t control the environment, so you have to try and work with it.”

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