Going from 150mm of growing season rainfall to 580mm in the space of a season has given Diggora grower Anthony Lees a better snapshot of crop adaptability.
Anthony, his parents John and Bev, and wife Rebecca, crop about 480ha of wheat, 460ha of canola, 160ha of barley, 90ha of peas and 70ha lupins across 1200ha, which includes some lease and share country.
The family, which have been National Variety Trials co-operators for about 30 years, grow different varieties of crops each year in an attempt to beat the long-term performers in their program.
Anthony said the moisture stressed season in 2015 produced some interesting results in terms of yield and screenings in wheat.
“We didn’t make any money that season, but we still managed to get a crop off,” Mr Lees said.
“Our best performing wheat for 12 years, an early-maturing AH suited to low and medium rainfall environments, was finally beaten by Trojan, a mid-late APW.”
“We planted a tonne of it alongside our long-termer, and the Trojan was 200-300kg/ha better, at 1.7t/ha,” Mr Lees said.
“It was also a lot easier to harvest, which kept our tonnes per hour on the header up, and screenings were just under one per cent – very minimal.”
Then in 2016, the cold and wet season helped them produce a record wheat harvest.
“Trojan was the biggest wheat crop we’d ever harvested.
“The paddock around our trial plots yielded 8.5t/ha. Our other paddock didn’t get a late application of nitrogen, but still went 7t/ha. It was previously planted to field peas, which provided the nitrogen.”
The grower works with Rodwells agronomist Dan Andrews to plan crop choices and chemistry, 2016 season opting for herbicides Sakura and Opus and fertilisers MAP 80kg/ha and urea in-crop at 80kg/ha.
Mr Lees said Trojan’s screenings again fell under one percent.
“It was good size, quality seed. Dairy farmers like a bigger seed for their dairy crushers.
“We don’t try and push too hard on the high grades. We try and push more on yield so if we get ASW and maybe a bit of APW, we’re really happy. I think yield is king around here.”
Anzac Day signals the start of planting for the Lees, with harvest usually kicking off in mid-November.
However, late-April rain did not eventuate, forcing them to start sowing dry.
“From Anzac Day we dry sowed 160ha of canola, wheat and lupins, then got a few rains and planted a bit more. The amount of dry sowing did make us nervous, but lucky we did, because things got damp so we couldn’t get in the paddock. The spraying operation after sowing was a struggle.
“Later in 2016 with in-crop spraying, we had to pick dry paddocks to avoid making wheel tracks.
“We got the plane in late for the rust, just for insurance, then things dried off and headers came out of the shed.”
Mr Lees said harvest ran six weeks later than normal.
“We usually sit down and have Christmas dinner, but this time it was flat out until February due to big yielding crops.”
Mr Lees said after the low of 2015 and the high of 2016, he would be happy with an average season in 2017.
Based on Trojan’s performance, he will be planting 80pc of his wheat crop to the variety.
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Image: Diggora grower Anthony Lees, Rodwells agronomist Dan Andrews and Advanta Seeds territory manager Giles Cunningham.