EVEN after a disappointing yield last year, Jason Dalton says wheat and barley will be the cereals he will plant this winter growing season.
“With grain prices where they are at the moment, I’m going to stick to wheat and barley,” he said.
He’s planning to sow 1200 hectares at The Kurrajongs, Burcher, where he farms with his wife, Terese.
The Dalton’s crop of Lancer won the local wheat competition elevating them to finalist stage in the western region of the 2018 Suncorp Bank/ Agricultural Societies Council dryland field wheat competition.
The decision to enter after a somewhat lacklustre graingrowing year hinged on some good management after heavy rain in the 2017 December fallow period, which according to Mr Dalton, set him up for a May sowing.
“We received 135 millimeters in three days during December, and I went out weed spraying immediately,” he said.
“That moisture held in the paddocks which allowed me to sow and establish the crop for the growing season.
“I actually sowed into moisture.”
Mr Dalton said he had bought some cattle just prior to the rain and his agent thought him as mad.
“In May, he phoned me and asked what I was doing. I said sowing. I think that confirmed his thoughts,” Mr Dalton said.
Paddocks were kept weed-free and in April before sowing a probe measured 90 centimetres moisture depth.
The Lancer seed dressed with Hombre ultra seed treatment was sown on May 1 at 45 kilograms/ha into the red loam soil with 70kg/ha of monoammonium phosphate (MAP) in 26cm spacings.
The paddocks sown followed vetch in 2017 and wheat in 2016 and 2015.
Sowing followed a spray of treflan and glyphosate and a post-emergence spray was applied on June 5.
Rainfall in the growing period included 22 ml in May then 41mm in June then virtually nothing for July, August, and September until 30mm fell in October.
“We did strike a few extra showers at sowing and just after emergence, and the crop held on from then,”Mr Dalton said.
Even so, the crop yielded only 1.7 tonnes/ha and had been stored on-farm for on-farm grain insurance.
Mr Dalton credited his success with the crop to the agronomy of West Wyalong AGnVET agronomist, Alice Burley.
“She helped us through what I’d describe a year I wanted to forget, really,” he said.
The Daltons have owned The Kurrajongs for five years, purchased after several years of sharefarming in the Wagga Wagga /West Wyalong region after moving there from Balranald.
“There’s been some good years and we’ve improved our infrastructure, but seasons have certainly slowed down,” Mr Dalton said.
In the past three years the Daltons have moved to a cereal and vetch rotation system.
“Last year we sowed half-and-half wheat and vetch – 600ha each, but the problem was the vetch returned no income due to the dry winter,” Mr Dalton said.
“This year I need to justify growing vetch as we had half our income smashed due to the failed vetch crop.
“We didn’t get the grazing value out of it as we would in a normal year.”
In normal years they grow vetch for grazing, brown manure and hay, plus seed.
“It’s one of the best hays going around.
“We graze it, spray-top it in August/September, then bale it.
“It’s one of the best plants for putting nitrogen back into the soils as well.”
Mr Dalton said he chooses vetch over lupins due to seed loss from lupins shattering.
“So back to the drawing board this year and if we don’t get a big break the whole of our country will have to go back into just barley and wheat this coming season.”