After almost a decade of growing the ancient seed crop, linseed - even though the market is small and it's "a mongrel to harvest" - Brad Jackson said it had earned its place in the cropping rotation.
Not only does linseed allow him to string together a double break from disease and pests such as nematodes, the hardy crop also provides the opportunity to spray for both grass and broadleaf weeds during the season.
"It's quite a unique crop in that sense," he said.
Mr Jackson farms 2000ha with his brothers Phil and Matt and their father Peter, who is now semi-retired, east of Gurley in the state's North West.
They grow dryland winter cereal, oilseed and pulse crops over a five-year rotation. A typical rotation is wheat, followed by canola, wheat or barley, chickpeas and then linseed.
The Jacksons have grown cotton in the past, but opted out of summer crops as part of their risk management strategy.
They found unreliable summer rainfall and fluctuating temperatures could quickly take a really good crop and "turn it to nothing".
"Winter tends to be a bit more stable," Mr Jackson said. "We also don't want to grow cotton on sloping country because erosion is a big issue. Winter crops suit us well on the sloping country for ground cover."
Average annual rainfall is 550-600 millimetres across the four properties.
Soils are mostly black self-mulching basalt, tending towards sodic, with a small area of red country.
It's very different to the Victorian Mallee where Mr Jackson's father and grandfather, Jim, farmed cereals and sheep before heading north to Gurley in the early 1980s.
One of the similarities though, is summer weed management and the looming spectre of herbicide resistance, which Mr Jackson nominated as one of their major challenges.
The main problem weeds are barnyard grass, feathertop Rhodes grass, phalaris and wild oats. Ryegrass is becoming more of an issue and glyphosate resistance has been identified in milk thistle not far from their farms.
The Jacksons bought a WeedIt optical sprayer in 2016 and use it to target small weeds every three to four weeks when needed. This allows them to double knock and rotate to more expensive herbicides that would be unaffordable at blanket rates.
This year's crops are LRPB Hellfire and Sunblade CL Plus bread wheat, Bindaroi durum wheat, Pioneer 44Y94 CL and Hyola Equinox CL canola and Glenelg linseed. They also will grow a seed crop of Xena barley on contract for Shepherd Grain.
Mr Jackson said they would normally grow Captain chickpeas but decided to increase the area of canola instead.
"We're trying to claw back a bit after three years of drought," he said. "We're trying to capitalise on the higher prices on offer and we'll probably go back to chickpeas next year."
Preparation for the linseed crop is similar to their other crops, although care must be taken to avoid using residual herbicides which can have a long plant back period, especially in dry years.
Sowing of this year's 250ha crop was finished on May 8. Using a Boss parallelogram planter set up with coulter, tyne and press wheels, the seed was sown at a rate of 25kg/ha on 330mm row spacings.
Trifluralin at 1.6L/ha was applied before planting and starter fertiliser of monoammonium phosphate at 80kg/ha was applied down the boot.
Linseed doesn't offer strong competition against weeds, so Tordon 242 at 840ml/ha will be applied once the crop reaches a height of 7-15cm, followed by Haloxyfop at 100ml/ha at early tillering to manage grass weeds.
Mr Jackson said disease was not usually a problem, but strict monitoring from pre-flowering onwards was essential to prevent costly damage and yield loss from heliothis grubs.
"You've got to be prepared to do up to three or four sprays for heliothis," he said. "It'll demolish your crop in no time if you're not on the ball. You've got to be checking a couple of times a week."
The crop will usually be harvested in mid-November, averaging 1.2-1.5t/ha, using a Macdon draper front. This can be a slow process as the fibrous stalk is prone to gumming up the header knives and blocking rotors.
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