A double break after two cereal crops is helping Riverina farmer Stephen Hatty get on top of problem weeds now that livestock have been taken out of the equation.
"A fair bit of research has been done about crop sequencing," he said.
"They've been finding that sort of rotation is beneficial not only from the weed and diseases point of view but also the residual nitrogen that the faba beans leave behind for us. That can carry through for three crops when we get it right."
Mr Hatty crops 2200 hectares with his wife Michelle, son Joel and father Rodney near Matong, east of Narrandera in the Riverina.
They sold the last of their first-cross ewes in 2014 and now grow dryland winter cereal, oilseed and pulse crops on a 12-metre controlled traffic farming system.
The country is fairly flat, with a difference of less than 40 metres in elevation from the bottom of a creek bed at one end of the farm to the top of a rise 15 kilometres away.
Four seasonal creeks - Yarran, Cowabbie, Dead Horse and Redbank - traverse the Hatty properties.
Average annual rainfall is 450 millimetres, but the watercourses can be a double-edged sword in very wet years.
An example was 2016, when 175mm of rain in September boosted the annual tally to 826mm. It was not only the second wettest year in the past 50, but flooding wiped out almost one-third of their crops.
Mr Hatty said he was a great believer in both maximum stubble retention and having a tight rotation. His four-year rotation starts with a pulse, followed by canola, then wheat and barley.
"I think it's kicking some goals as far as weed control because we get the two, the pulse and the canola together, to give us good weed control on that phase," he said.
"Ryegrass is probably the biggest issue we face. Also, brome grass is becoming a bit more of an issue, as are milk thistle, prickly lettuce and fleabane."
Last year's winter crops were Lancer, Catapult and Beckom wheat, RGT Planet, Compass and La Trobe barley, Samira faba beans, Morgan and Percy field peas, and five varieties of canola: HyTTec Trophy, SF Ignite TT, Bonito, ATR Wahoo and Pioneer 43Y92.
Mr Hatty said he opted to try HyTTec Trophy canola because of its good disease package and positive reports from other growers.
Preparation for the crop began with a double knock consisting of a glyphosate mix followed by a pre-sowing knockdown of paraquat at 1.7 litres a hectare, Atrazine at 1.1kg/ha and Rustler at 1 litre a hectare.
Also in cropping:
Using a trailing NDF disc seeder, two kilograms a hectare of canola seed was sown into faba bean stubble on 250mm row spacings from April 17. Monoammonium phosphate at 50kg/ha and FertiCoat at 8L/t was also applied.
In-crop weed sprays were a mix of Platinum Xtra 360 at 200 millilitres a hectare and Verdict at 100ml/ha on June 21, followed by a mix of Atrazine at 1.1kg/ha and Lontrel at 60g/ha on June 23.
The crop was top-dressed with urea at 90kg/ha on June 8 and 70kg/ha on July 9. No fungicide or insecticides were needed.
"We had a dry spell at sowing but managed to get the crop in on time and just didn't look back all year," Mr Hatty said.
The long term average canola yield is usually about 1.5 tonnes a hectare, but the HyTTec Trophy returned 2.8t/ha and 42 per cent oil when the Case IH 8230 header went through it.
Mr Hatty said they harvested three quarters of the canola before rain came tumbling down in late November.
"We had 125 millimetres for November which doesn't sound excessive," he said.
"But it came at the wrong time, just when the crops were all ready to harvest and did a lot of damage to the grain and made things very difficult."
Mr Hatty said he was approaching the coming season with a "business as usual" mindset.
"We'll stick with that same rotation. Costs have escalated with the price of fertiliser and chemicals all increasing, which is a hard pill to swallow, but as long as we can grow a reasonable crop we should still come out in front."
I think it's kicking some goals as far as weed control because we get the two, the pulse and the canola together, to give us good weed control on that phase.- Stephen Hatty, Matong
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