Canola crop defies rainfall

Griffith canola links up with 2016 moisture to yield 1.4 tonnes despite low rainfall

100 Stories of Hope
Barry Haskins (in green) with Chris Morshead, with whom he share farms, and one of his agronomists, Albert Gorman, in the canola crop that averaged 1.4 tonnes a hectare.

Barry Haskins (in green) with Chris Morshead, with whom he share farms, and one of his agronomists, Albert Gorman, in the canola crop that averaged 1.4 tonnes a hectare.

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Griffith canola crop yields up to 1.4 tonnes/hectare after just 140 millimetres.

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Griffith farmer and agronomist, Barry Haskins, has managed to grow a dryland canola crop which yielded from one to 1.4 tonnes a hectare, with only 140 millimetres of rain.

Mr Haskins said the crop had two falls of around 40mm, just after the 200ha crop was dry-sown in early April.

This enabled the canola to get up and going enough for its roots to reach deep moisture, conserved in the soil since 2016.

"That's pretty much what's grown that crop, since August 1 we've had less than 15mm here and it wasn't wet in June or July either," Mr Haskins said.

He said the paddock that averaged 1.4t/ha was in canola in 2016, while the paddock that yielded 1t/ha was in wheat.

"It's a big lesson for us, we've learnt when we get deep moisture we need to look after it and use it," Mr Haskins said.

"The last two years have been either frosted or drought-affected, 2017 was a big frost year here, we didn't even strip 1t/ha of wheat and then 2018 was drought and we roughly got 1t/ha.

"Those two crops didn't reach the moisture. This canola crop is the first one to be able to get its roots down and suck into it."

Ticking all the agronomic boxes 

Mr Haskins said on top of reaching deep moisture, they also tried to tick every agronomic box, including choosing a high performing variety.

"I chose a hybrid, 43Y92, which has performed very well in our local region in research trials," Mr Haskins said.

"I also put 20ha of ATR Bonito in, a variety we've grown for a long time, and the hybrid yielded 30 per cent better than Bonito, so it has paid for itself three times over."

He said they calendar sowed, choosing a date between April 10 and 15 each year.

"In my time as an adviser and as a farmer I've learnt you've got two options in this marginal area, on-time or early," he said.

"That's with everything, whether it's spraying, putting out fertiliser or sowing."

The crop was sown two centimetres deep with 2.2kg/ha of seed and 65kg/ha of Granulock and 65kg/ha of urea before sowing.

Mr Haskins said the previous years' below average crops had left one big advantage for this year's canola.

"This paddock had a lot of nitrogen left in it from three years of less than average, or failed crops," he said.

Mr Haskins said he stuck to a strict rotation of two years of cereal followed by either canola or a pulse.

"Canola is part of my rotation for a reason. The difference in weed control compared to cereals is important, including key times for killing weeds," Mr Haskins said.

Mr Haskins said not all their crops would see the same success as this year's canola.

"I think my wheat will only average 1.4t/ha, it was early sown Sceptre. Everything was done right, but it just hasn't got into that deeper moisture," Mr Haskins said.

"Very, very rarely will you see canola perform equal to wheat, I've never seen it before."

Taking opportunities when they're presented

Mr Haskins said the ability to have grown a good canola crop on limited rain made him excited for what many farmers in the region would be able to do in a good year.

"Our turn will come and we will get to see the really positive results, I can't wait for that," Mr Haskins said.

"For farmers who are doing it tough, it's hard, but there's a lot of smart heads out there continually thinking of better ways to do what we're doing.

"You've got to take the opportunities when they present themselves, but the key is there are so many people here to help."

Mr Haskins sharefarms with Griffith irrigator Chris Morshead, as well as running his own country where the canola was planted. He also has a team of agronomists working for his business Ag Grow.

"Farmers can get a bit isolated, especially when it's not a good year, but we're not alone, the bloke that changes the tyres on my tractors, the mechanics, re-sellers in town, they're all massively supportive of us as farmers," Mr Haskins said.

 https://www.theland.com.au/news/100-stories-of-hope/

https://www.theland.com.au/news/100-stories-of-hope/

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