Defying the dry season

Defying the dry season


Rob Mackenzie, “Trevena”, Bellata.

Rob Mackenzie, “Trevena”, Bellata.

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LIKE everywhere across the North West, it’s been a tough winter at Bellata.

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LIKE everywhere across the North West, it’s been a tough winter at Bellata.

Rain in the wheat belt in the past five months has been negligible and if that wasn’t enough to contend with, severe frosts have ripped through the region, downgrading crop and diminishing yields.

Bellata croppers Rob and Beryl Mackenzie, “Trevena”, have managed to defy the tough growing conditions to post an excellent average wheat yield this season.

The couple’s crop of Caparoi durum exceeded expectations to yield an average of 4.6 tonnes a hectare, well up on the anticipated 3.8t/ha they thought they would achieve.

Mr Mackenzie said he was elated with the result, which was on par with yields reached in previous years under much less difficult growing conditions.

“It went really well considering the conditions,” he said.

“It’s been a pretty good year; I’m very happy.”

As well as achieving admirable yields, the crop also won the MacKenzies the title of best laurels in the 2013 Suncorp Bank/Agricultural Societies Dryland Field Wheat Northern Region Competition.

The winning Caparoi crop was sown in the first week of June using a John Deere no-till disc planter at a rate of 45kg/ha.

The Mackenzies have used minimum-till farming methods for the past 25 years.

Mr Mackenzie said while the country still needed the occasional cultivation, minimum-till methods had a huge impact on the country.

“It has made a big difference in terms of soil moisture,” he said.

The durum crop was sown on to a full moisture profile in June, which was enough to get the crop through to harvest in the last week of October.

Very little in-crop rain was received after germination.

The crop was sown into a long-fallow paddock, which was last sown to sorghum in 2011.

Urea was spread at 260kg/ha pre-plant with a further 75kg/ha of zinc starter fertiliser SuPreme Z to give the crop a kick along.

Tordon and Ally were applied to control broadleaf weeds.

Tordon was applied at one litre a hectare and Ally at 5g/ha.

As the Mackenzies stick to their three-year wheat, sorghum, long fallow rotation, rotating chemicals to avoid broadleaf herbicide resistance is simple.

“Because everything is long fallow, we don’t have to worry too much about rotating chemicals,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“Next year we won’t have a wheat crop there so we won’t have Tordon on that paddock again for three years.”

The grain achieved protein levels of 13 per cent, placing it on the borderline for DR1.

While Mr Mackenzie said he was satisfied with the result, with good premiums for high protein wheat available at the moment, he had been crossing his fingers for a slightly higher figure.

“It’s probably pretty good considering the yield we got but I did think we might have been able to go a bit higher,” he said.

Vicious frosts that reduced the yields and grain size of some nearby croppers spared the MacKenzies’ durum.

The couple chose to sow their durum later than other farmers in the district in the hope it would help them avoid frosts at critical times of crop development.

The timing of sowing allowed them to achieve a happy medium, Mr MacKenzie said.

“We used to run into protein problems when we sowed early and when you sow late you run into grain size problems so it’s a trade-off to get it in between,” he said.

Summer crop sowing is already complete, with 240ha of country planted to sorghum and germinated.

“Trevena” is also home to a small herd of cattle, which graze on the country unsuitable for cropping.

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