This is sponsored content from Best Environmental Technologies.
A bio-stimulant has proven to be the “silent achiever’’ for a grower who has harvested one of the few barley crops in drought stricken northern NSW.
At harvest in late November, Terry Blanch was thrilled to find his 162ha barley crop yielding an average of 1.5 tonnes a hectare off the header, with screenings of less than one per cent, test weight of 67 hectolitres and 11.5 per cent protein.
The result was achieved on just 37mm of in-crop rainfall.
Since switching to a minimum till and biological system, Mr Blanch has reduced synthetic fertiliser rates by 30 per cent and no longer uses fungicides.
Yields, test weights, protein and oil content have all increased while screenings are down.
Terry and his wife Jenny, and son Scott, run a 600ha dryland cropping and grazing enterprise, “Pindari”, near Tamworth, in northern NSW.
Set in a 600mm rainfall zone, the two holdings are 30km apart and consist of red loam to heavier red clay soil types.
The cropping rotation comprises wheat, barley and canola and opportunity summer crops of mung beans, cowpeas and sorghum.
The bio-stimulant TM Agricultural was applied in January with a knock down herbicide to the paddocks.
The barley varieties of Spartacus, Planet and Commander were sown on “a wing and a prayer’’ on both properties after 16mm of rain on August 1 and a follow-up fall on August 20.
Mr Blanch used a 9m John Deere 1890 disc seeder at a depth of 5cm and set on a 25cm row spacing.
One of the paddocks had come out of a canola crop, which yielded 1.6 tonnes/ha and 46 per cent oil on no 2017 growing season rainfall, while the other was wheat.
The seed was treated with TM Germination and a zinc fertiliser before sown with 50kg/ha of DAP and 25kg/ha of Urea starter fertiliser.
The crops received between 37 and 75mm of in-crop rain to bring the year’s total to around 200mm.
Due to the harsh season and severe frosts, Mr Blanch chose not to apply an in-crop herbicide or second application of TM Agricultural.
“I was confident I would harvest something as the soil was in such good order – the TM had got it humming,’’ he said.
“The increased test weights and low screenings is enough to pay the $25/ha cost of TM per year and all the other benefits are a big bonus.’’
Being one of the few barley crops to be harvested in the district, Terry was keen to see it sold to local graziers and lot feeders.
He had been using minimum tillage techniques for around 20 years until weeds including flea-bane and milk thistle forced him back to mechanical control methods using a high-speed disc tilling machine two years ago.
“I was searching for humic acid to buffer some chemical, improve the soil and feed the earthworms,’’ he said.
“I stumbled on TM (in 2015) and it has done a wonderful job on improving the soil biology.
“Since using TM we have never had a problem with grain size, weight and screenings.’’
In the past, Terry treated his wheat with a red pickle but the crops consistently required a fungicide application for stripe rust.
He switched to a pre-sowing seed treatment using TM and has been able to control the stripe rust and drop the fungicides.
“I have never used pickle on any grain since and it is all TM treated with no issues or disease,’’ Mr Blanch said.
“The left over seed is also safe to feed to the cattle.
“Personally, our family has invested in a lot of equipment to ensure we don’t touch or inhale chemicals when filling the boom spray, so the health aspect of a biological product is important to us.
“TM is simple to apply through the boom spray and it mixes with anything.
“The benefits are tenfold and you get it back over and over again – it’s like a silent achiever.’’
Mr Blanch now uses TM Agricultural over 100 per cent of the cropping and grazing area at the recommendation of two applications of 250ml/ha.
With pastures of mostly lucerne and natural grasses, live-weight gain and cattle health has resulted in the herd ranking in the Top 100 for Meat Standards Australia.
Best Environmental Technology agronomist Keiran Knight, of Wee Waa, said soil structure had improved allowing better access to soil moisture and nutrients deeper in the soil profile.
“This helps the crop to be more resilient in tough seasons such as the one experienced this year,’’ Mrs Knight said.
“The active soil biology is also increasing the organic carbon levels enabling more moisture to be retained in the soil profile,’’ Mrs Knight said.
This is sponsored content for Best Environmental Technologies.