The expression 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' could apply to Justin Everitt's farming operation at Howlong.
With wife Kate, they farm Aintree Park where they aim for a balance of about half cereals and half break crops and five years ago, he implemented a six-year rotation of canola, wheat, lupins, wheat, canola, barley. The rationale was to improve weed control and improve soil health.
"We're also trying to keep a bit of a rhythm going," he said. "If you stick to the rotations, that takes out any variability and you know what you're up to every year. It's working pretty well so far."
This year's grain crops will be Illabo and Beckom wheat, RGT Planet barley, Hyola Blazer TT and HyTTec Trifecta canola and PBA Bateman lupins. There will also be Harpoon HV forage barley and Hyola 970CL dual purpose canola for grazing.
Sowing began on April 14 with grazing wheat and canola, which will be followed by lupins, more winter wheat and barley.
Mr Everitt, who has been growing lupins for as long as he can remember, said he chose the variety PBA Bateman for its high yields.
"I like the fact that growing lupins improves the soil and provides a weed and disease break, but I also want them to yield," he said.
Preparation for this year's crop started with diligent summer weed control, and will be followed by a pre-seeding spray of trifluralin or Reflex. Soil tests will be reviewed to decide whether the crop will need any starter fertiliser.
"Usually, we put a light rate of SuPerfect or MAP with them," he said. "We have grown them without fertiliser with no penalty, so they're probably not going to get fertiliser this year. Our soil tests are pretty good. We've maintained high rates from when we could in our wheat and canola, so it's allowing us to back off in this expensive year."
The lupins will be treated with Group B peat inoculant and sown into wheat stubble at 90kg/ha, using a 10.6-metre Gason Hydratill trailing seeder with root boot points on 254mm row spacings.
Post-sowing, the paddock will receive simazine at 1.5kg/ha and Pyrinex Super at 500 millilitres a hectare to guard against red legged earth mites. A grass weed herbicide will be applied six weeks after sowing, and the crop might receive a spray of Brodal for broadleaf weeds, such as wild radish.
The lupins also usually get a foliar trace element spray containing molybdenum before flowering.
"And then we just hope for the best," Mr Everitt said. "Last year we got yields of up to 4t/ha, but our average is more like 1-1.5t/ha."
Mr Everitt needs only one word to describe the past two seasons: fantastic.
"We did have rain delays and downgraded wheat and issues with canola and stuff like that last year," he said.
"But the way it's worked out, it's all been okay in the end. This year is also starting out well.
"All we need now is steady, constant rain - without being too much - and no frost."
His sheep are run in a way that prioritises the crops, allowing them to maintain their rotation focus, as well as maximising use of infrastructure that would otherwise only provide a return in drought.
They grow about 1000 hectares of dryland winter cereals, oilseeds and legumes, and run a flock of 1500 Merino and first-cross ewes for prime lambs.
Despite experiencing two fantastic years, Mr Everitt has yet to shake off the discomfort of the drought years that preceded them.
Even though his patch is normally considered very safe, it was very dry in 2018 and 2019.
Feed was in short supply, forcing him to cut crops for hay and silage to maintain core breeding stock.
"It's definitely in the back of the mind," he said. "That's a memory I'm not going to forget in a hurry. It was very tough."
A reflection of this can be seen in his grazing management.
Some sheep are already grazing the early sown forage crops, however, most are kept in containment yards until later sown crops are ready. Some of the lupins they grow are kept for stock feed and the rest are sold farmer-to-farmer by word of mouth.
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