Putting dual purpose crops to the test

Purlewaugh croppers test dual purpose crop opportunities after rainfall

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Many growers sowed Planet barley but will it pay off?

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Sam Redden of Bingo at Purlewaugh with Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson in some wedgetail wheat.

Sam Redden of Bingo at Purlewaugh with Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson in some wedgetail wheat.

For the first time in about four years cropping trial plots have returned to parts of the Central West with a number of inclusions set to interest growers around the region.

Local Land Services and the Department of Primary Industries have collaborated on a dual purpose cereal trial as part of The Adapt Project aimed at helping producers reduce risk and potentially increase gross margins.

Dual purpose crops can help with weed competition, act as fast ground cover and bring the added benefit of livestock and grain production.

A total of 18 varieties of oats, wheat, barley and triticale were sown on April 8 and 9 on half hectare trial plots in Bogan Gate and Purlewaugh.

Planet barley is among them after growers in the region expressed their plans to sow it for quick feed instead of oats, wheat and barley which were short in supply.

Some had indicated their plans to graze and then lock it up for grain despite the risk of frost at the end of the season.

Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson at the trial site at Purlewaugh.

Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson at the trial site at Purlewaugh.

Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson said Planet was currently leading on growth stage and biomass proving it was a good quick feed and ground cover option.

"But going from some previous DPI work we think that you could only slow it down by about two weeks and that it will probably run up to head early and get frosted," he said.

"An interesting thing that has come out of the trial so far is that we also found early on that we were getting a lot of adult winged aphids coming in because we sowed earlier than the paddock around it.

"We didn't spray it because the seed had been treated and the lady beetles and laced wings and spiders increased pretty rapidly in there and the aphid numbers have decreased so it was a good move not spraying it."

New varieties of triticale and also rust resistant wheat are among other crops of interest.

Sam Redden of Bingo at Purlewaugh with Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson.

Sam Redden of Bingo at Purlewaugh with Central West Local Land Services senior land services officer for mixed farming Callen Thompson.

EGA Wedgetail remains popular in the region despite being susceptible to rust. It is hoped the trial will also uncover potential replacements.

"Some of these varieties in this trial we haven't had a chance to trial because of the dry and producers haven't had a chance either," Mr Thompson said.

"We will have a good indication next season of what varieties to use.

"The aim of the program is to help producers to adapt to changes in market and climate so we see dual purpose cereals as a really good way of reducing risk if we can graze in the season. It gives you more options and it also can be more profitable."

Like many growers Sam Redden of Bingo at Purlewaugh struggled to find oat seed and currently has 100 hectares of EGA Wedgetail, 200 hectares of Kittyhawk and 20 hectares of Illabo, a potential replacement for EGA Wedgetail.

Mr Redden currently runs a breeder herd of about 200 tropically adapted crossbred cattle of Angus and Belmont Red genetics, growing out bulls for the northern areas. The dual purpose crops will be grazed three times until August.

While the family has been utilising dual purpose crops for 30 years, they now have far more crop than usual after receiving 440 millimetres of rain for the year.

Bulls and joiner heifers along with feeder cattle usually graze the crops but this year for the first time cows and calves may also be used to ensure it is eaten before going to head too far.

Callen Thompson in front of the Planet barley at the trial site at Purlewaugh.

Callen Thompson in front of the Planet barley at the trial site at Purlewaugh.

"Wedgetail basically returns better than oats and the Moby forage barley, that's why we use it and you get the grain," he said.

"It will still yield at 1.8 to 3.2 tonne to the hectare. It depends on the stock really but I've seen it do 2kg/day daily weight gain but 1.5kg would be a constant."

Mr Thompson said there were profits in dual purpose crops for both livestock and cropping systems.

"You take away some of the risk by being able to have those early grazes if the tap does turn off, you have already made some money on it," he said

The Purlewaugh trial site.

The Purlewaugh trial site.

"I think in 2016 the trial at Purlewaugh produced around $800 of grain and $900 of lamb."

LLS would normally host a field day and field walk before stock are put on the crops in about four weeks time. Instead regular videos are being shared on social media with data to be collected at harvest.

The $60,000 dual purpose crop trials are being run by Central West Local Land Services and DPI with funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

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