North West growers' bet on barley promises to pay dividends

Barley in NSW North West set for possible bumper harvest | Photos

Cropping
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It's a bit hard to find in the state's North West, but barley looks set to pay dividends.

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IT may not have been the most popular choice among growers in the state's North West this year, but those who did stick with barley are set to reap the rewards.

Strong canola prices coupled with apprehension among producers due to China's recent barley tariffs are among the reasons the cereal crop has been scarce on the ground.

However, for Gunnedah grower Grant McIlveen, who planted about 280 hectares of Intergrain's Spartacus variety barley, on his property, Clifton, the decision to plant barley was motivated by other factors.

"During the drought, we had to destock most of our ewes and given the strong price of lambs and ewes, we decided to focus more on cropping to keep us going," Mr McIlveen said.

"As well as that, my kids are a bit more inclined towards cropping, so we now have a bit more of a rotation, which is good."

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Despite having to wait until late May to sow his crop due to a wet autumn, Mr McIlveen said it was worth the wait.

"This is the second year in a row we have grown Spartacus and last year it probably averaged 1.5 tonne per hectare because some of it got badly frosted," he said.

"We bought an agri-plow last year and deep ripped the two paddocks the barley's in and it has certainly made a big difference to this country.

"There's hardly been a drop of water roll off these paddocks as a result of that deep ripping, which given we've had well above average rainfall is fantastic."

It was a similar story for Somerton grower Huw Coleman, who planted 240 hectares of Spartacus on his property, Glenroc, at Wean, near Gunnedah, and who is also looking to harvest in early November.

"The price of lambs got pretty silly there last year, so it made going with a straight crop this year an easier decision," Mr Coleman said.

"I think the country is probably best suited as a finishing block, but I went with a straight crop and it seems to have gone pretty well.

"However, while we are looking to harvest in the first week of November, I get a bit nervous about speculating about how well it will go, I'd prefer to wait until it gets to the receival site to find out.

"The block is currently up for sale through Ray White at Tamworth, so it is pretty pleasing to being finishing up with what is hopefully a pretty strong crop"

Despite several growers in the state's North West planting barley, the Liverpool Plains was comparatively quiet on the barley front.

Long-time barley grower David Carter said this year was "the first time in many years" he hadn't included barley in his Blackville property's cropping rotation.

"With the way our rotation worked last year, we grew about 4000 tonnes of barley but it hasn't featured this year," Mr Carter said.

"Just with the way things have gone, we are putting all of our barley country into sorghum this year."

Mr Carter said a wet autumn across the Liverpool Plains had also contributed to the limited amount of barley planted.

"I think it is a couple of things, the issues with China last year as well as a bit of a surplus of barley from last year are some of big reasons," he said.

"Last year was such a big year that a lot of what came off last year looked after this year as well, there is still quite a bit of barley planted around Moree and some pockets on the Liverpool Plains but not much.

"People were also wall-to-wall winter crop last year which has translated to summer crops this year because the country was too wet to plant during winter."

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