"Yielding very well," says Simon Doolin, Cleveland, of his North Star sorghum crops. That's quite a turnaround from about three years ago when much of the North Star district looked like a dustbowl.
The Doolins' property is very drought resilient, professors of groundcover and securing nitrogen for following crops, including with sorghum, using one as a cover crop before harvesting next year's crop.
They have to deal with two dfferent soil types on the slightly undulating country at Cleveland, the traditional black soil of the north-west and a bit of harder and lighter red soil, that Mr Doolin has helped turn around with some deep ripping and lime addition, out of trials in partnership with the University of Southern Queensland.
The deep ripping on the red soil has been a big success, giving, according to Mr Doolin an extra 1 tonne a hectare lift to that red soil sorghum crop.
The rest of the sorghum area is looking fantastic, although Mr Doolin prefers not to talk in yields, he likes to talk in sustainability. He was Syngenta's 2020 Growth Awards National Winner in the Sustainability category. Dealing with changing weather patterns has been the Doolins' biggest challenge - where he says the whole area looked "terrible" during the drought - but having both summer and winter cropping has spread the risk.
The sorghum seed varieties he's used this year are Pioneer G33 ands A75 and also Pacific MR-Taurus. And it's been a perfect growing season for sorghum with rain at the right time.
The bulk of the sorghum was planted about September 16 last year and there was a full soil moisture profile, and good straw cover on the country. They did some strip-tilling on the red country.
The growing season was fantastic with cool nights, and few extreme days. "It was a normal season," he said. "I grew a sorghum crop as a cover crop last year to build up the organic levels. It led to having a much better germination the next year." The deep ripping of the red soil saw improved yield results within six months. He will deliver the export grade sorghum to the Darling Downs and some will go to GrainCorp. He said though some growers faced issues with getting containerised sorghum out of Australia and some may get stuck with it.
His dryland cotton had also had a perfect growing season, with three pivots used for irrigation, using groundwater. They also planted some corn.
For winter crops they will be planting wheat , barley and chickpeas. "We already have enough subsoil moisture to go ahead with those plantings," he said.
The sorghum harvest is just about done - just in time as storms hit the north of the state, some nearby areas recording 100mm last week.
Getting on top of heliothis grubs was one of the secrets to successful sorghum crops at Cleveland, North Star.
Dave Kelly, Macintyre Independent Agronomists, advised Doolin Agriculture on the sorghum crops, helping it through a "kind" season where every element fell into place.
There was good rain in November and December, really boosting sorghum yields, and then for the first time in a long time, a soft season, with milder temperatures helping at flowering time.
"It was an ideal season," Mr Kelly said. "There was hardly any stress on the crop at any stage."
They did one spray of ViVus Max, a live virus that kills caterpillars in the crop.
"As each grub dies it passes on the virus to the next grub. It is very specific to the caterpillars."
The University of Southern Queensland's trial of deep ripping and lime addition in the lighter red soils of Cleveland had proved very successful.
"We have been working with them on some of the challenging soils. The USQ did some intensive testing of the soils. In many seasons those soils run out of moisture but the deep ripping helped these crops."
Dryland cotton on the property was also looking really good, with three pivots used during the season, using groundwater sources.
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journalist and author
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