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Seed dynasty paints bright picture for wheat in Vic

October 22, 2015

AndrewRussell

EG Baker and Co. production manager Andrew Russell is feeling positive about the future of Victorian wheat.

One of Victoria’s biggest seed producers has revealed its optimism for the future of wheat in the state.

EG Baker and Co., which has been producing seed for four generations from its base in Rutherglen, is seeing new varieties with improved germplasm out-yield mainstay varieties considerably.

“Our average wheat yield for this area is 3.5 to 4.5 tonnes per hectare, and despite the 2014 season being very wet in winter and dry in spring with no finishing rain, we were seeing varieties like Lancer, Trojan and Viking yield 5t/ha plus,” production manager and director of the family business Andrew Russell said.

“That outcome was a bonanza.”

Newer varieties were also better at handling a range of climatic factors.

“Even though we are classed as a medium rainfall zone, sometimes you have a low rainfall year and sometimes a high rainfall year, and Trojan and Viking in particular are showing some adaptation there,” Mr Russell said.

The newest variety added to their business model is Lancer – a variety released in NSW in 2013.

“We grew it for the first time last season as an early sowing option and it was very impressive.

“Our Lancer crops were some of the best on farm and I have high hopes the variety will have a good fit as a long season option in northern Victoria.”

Mr Russell said he was very interested to see what the newer varieties can do in a good season.

This winter he sowed 25 different varieties across wheat, oats, lupins, faba beans and canola.

Dual-purpose wheats were sown April 15, followed by canola, then in the last week of April they sowed early season, longer maturing Lancer.

Legumes were sown in early May, main season varieties Trojan and Viking were sown in the second week of May and long season, shorter maturing variety Cobra was sown last.

Mr Russell is part of a unique family business.

He is one of three son-in-laws to Geoff and Judy Baker, with Geoff and all three daughters playing key roles in the businesses.

He manages 2450ha of seed and commercial grain production in the Rutherglen and Springhurst area, while brother-in-laws Jason Wright and Ashley Fraser manage the livestock enterprise, and seed processing and marketing business, respectively.

While the men do not work side-by-side, they are constantly communicating - especially with sales and business development manager Aaron Giason.

“We’re always talking about new varieties coming out.  We like to have them in our own screening trials to work out adaptability for the area,” Mr Russell said.

The challenge for the company is to manage the transition from older varieties to new ones which offer better disease ratings and yields.

“I think you have a mix of growers who hold onto varieties for a long time and those who want the latest germplasm.  Ideally, you want your variety to last four seasons to get a return from that investment.

“For instance, we’ve held onto EGA Gregory longer than any other variety in the business’ history, but this is the first year we haven’t grown it, because we replaced it with Trojan and Viking.

“They have proven themselves to be superior to Gregory, offering yield and diseases advantages.”

EG Baker and Co. produces seed for wheat, oats, faba beans, lupins and canola, which is then processed, marketed and distributed by sister company Baker Seed Co.