Ground Cover North : GroundCover 135 July-August 2018
By Nicole Baxter n A dry start to 2018 on the back of a dry and frosty spring in 2017 led Jeff Bennett to rethink his cropping mix to better manage risk on the 2400 hectares of land under his care near Condobolin in central NSW. Working alongside his wife Lisa and staff members Colin Grabham and Nick Windsor, Jeff threw out canola in favour of wheat and barley after recording just 23 millimetres of rain in the four months to May. The decision was made against the backdrop of a failed crop in 2017 when 1550ha of Crusher TT canola – farmed on a leased block in half shares with Jeff ’s brother Tim and sister-in-law Melinda – had to be written off after it was cruelled by dry weather and frost. Jeff says the team had hoped to salvage at least 100 kilograms per hectare of seed from the block, but after making the 70-kilometre journey north of Condobolin with all their gear in tow, they were devastated to discover nothing remained to harvest. In hindsight, Jeff wonders if the residue left on the paddock would have been better baled for hay, but he and Tim decided against that at the time because of low hay prices and not having their own haymaking gear. Earlier this year, the brothers hired a Kelly disc chain and ran it over the block twice to smash down the unharvested standing canola and chop up the remaining residue to create a seedbed smooth enough to sow a cereal crop into it using a tyned airseeding rig set on 30-centimetre row spacings. “On top of the lost income, we have had to spend $30/ha to deal with the failed canola just so we can get our planting equipment through the residue ... which would not have been a problem if it was harvested. But the block should be relatively clean, if we get enough rain to sow.” On the upside, 800ha of grazing country bought in 2016 and cropped for the first time in 2017 has highlighted the risk management benefits of sowing the right varieties at the right time into fertile soil. Jeff, Colin and Nick worked around the clock to seed wheat – LongReach SpitfireA and LivingstonA – before 15 May 2017. Their efforts were rewarded at the season’s close when the entire block averaged 1.6 tonnes per hectare of Australian Prime Hard grain, selling for $330/t delivered to Condobolin. “We measured 100mm of rain in March 2017 and that, coupled with effective summer weed control and high starting soil nutrition, is what enabled us to harvest a reasonable crop of wheat after such a tight spring,” he says. o Feature: Page 10 ON THE UPSIDE, 800HA OF GRAZING COUNTRY BOUGHT IN 2016 AND CROPPED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2017 HAS HIGHLIGHTED THE RISK MANAGEMENT BENEFITS OF SOWING THE RIGHT VARIETIES AT THE RIGHT TIME INTO FERTILE SOIL. PHOTO:NICOLEBAXTER REGIONAL EXTENSION REPORT PAGES 41 TO 43 WITH THIS ISSUE 16-PAGE SUPPLEMENT Stubble ISSUE 135 | July – August 2018 By Catherine Norwood China’s increasing importance to the Australian grains industry has been illustrated by high-level talks with key Chinese industry participants and government agencies and officials. During talks in Beijing in March, Australian grains trade representatives were briefed on policy changes and their implications for doing business in China, with Chinese officials indicating strong support for Australian grain. The talks followed announcements by China’s political administration that Grain Trade Australia (GTA) CEO Pat O’Shannassy described as indicating a more positive import environment. “Australian delegates were able to obtain a direct and timely understanding of the policy changes and implications for doing business in China. Strong support for Australian grains was very evident from both government and industry representatives,” Mr O’Shannassy says. The round-table meetings involved dialogue with Chinese Government agencies and industry participants, looking to further align commercial, technical and regulatory trade environments for the grains trade between Australia and China. The meetings were held in conjunction AUSTRALIAN GRAIN TRADERS STRENGTHEN CHINA/ASIA TIES with the 2018 Australian Grains Industry Conference (AGIC) Asia series, which included events in Bangkok, Thailand, and Shanghai, China. In Shanghai, keynote speaker Professor Li Dongsen, from China’s Golden Grain International, highlighted the qualities of Australian wheat in this important and growing wheat noodle market. These included excellent milling quality, high milling yield, excellent noodle colour, stability and taste. In 2016-17 China accounted for nine per cent of Australia’s wheat exports and 70 per cent of barley exports. Other exports included sorghum, canola and pulses. The total value of grain exports to China was about $2.9 billion. “With economic growth resulting in a rapidly growing middle class and changing dietary preferences, large population and proximity of China, it is an extremely important market to the future growth and success of the Australian grains industry,” Mr O’Shannassy says. The event in Bangkok was AGIC’s first in Thailand and it was well-attended by flour and feed millers. The conference reinforced the strong position that Australian wheat holds in Thailand and highlighted opportunities for further growth. Continued: Page 3 Dry conditions prompt rethink on crop mix The dry start in central NSW prompted (from left) Jeff Bennett, Colin Grabham and Tim Bennett to knock canola from their 2018 program.
GroundCover 134 May-June 2018 - North