DRY conditions have made for a tough season for sorghum on the Liverpool Plains but there has been plenty for Quirindi district cropper Simon Tourle to smile about.
Mr Tourle, who farms at “Glenkerry”, Braefield, just south of Quirindi, with his father John, took out this year’s coveted Premer Shield for best sorghum crop.
The winning crop of Pacific MR43 sorghum was sown on December 6 after catching some fortuitous falls in late November and early December that replenished the top soil moisture.
“It was sown a month later than we’d have preferred,” he said.
“Ideally, we’d sow in the first week of November but the second half of last year was very much feast or famine.”
The November/December rains meant the crop was sown on a full moisture profile, with the alluvial soils at “Glenkerry” helping maximise water retention.
Mr Tourle said he grew the Pacific MR43 variety every year.
“We grow it year-in, year-out because of its slightly lower tillering ability than other varieties, so when we have a dry end to the season it doesn’t need as much moisture,” he said.
The crop was sown at a rate of 57,000 seeds per hectare, which he said was higher than usual.
“The sowing rate was about 10 per cent heavier due to the way the season was looking; we wanted those few extra plants,” he said.
The majority of the 320 millimetre in-crop rainfall fell in late January and early February, which Mr Tourle said set the crop up for a good growing season.
“We had 35mm over Christmas but it was that Australia Day rain that kicked it along,” he said.
It was fertilised with 120 units of nitrogen and 40 kilograms of Gran-am.
The 200ha sorghum-on-sorghum crop was all sown at the same time.
The Tourles farm only sorghum on the 650ha property as well as running 100 mixed breeders on lucerne country unsuited for cropping.
Despite the dry season – which has seen a reduced sorghum plant across the Liverpool Plains – the family said the crop performed well and was on par with other years.
Mr Tourle said the plants came through a series of hot days during early January well.
“We had a few days of quite warm temperatures that it doesn’t like, but it seems to be able to handle the tough stuff early on if it gets some rain later,” he said.
Judges for the Premer Shield estimated the crop would yield about 8.3 tonnes to the hectare.
Mr Tourle said he was “very happy” with the estimated yield, which at current prices could return up to $2000 a hectare.
The crop is not yet committed as the Tourles have chosen to take a wait and see approach as there is still room for movement in price.
“There’s a quite small State sorghum crop around and if we get some early frosts it could play a big role in upping the price,” Mr Tourle said.
“We don’t do much forward-selling, I like to have it in the bin first.”
The crop will be dessicated shortly and harvested in the first few weeks of May.
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