Program change offers top end yield potential

August 30, 2016


Russell Zwar in his Trojan wheat.

Wirrabara grower Russell Zwar is now better positioned to chase top end yields from his wheat crops after making a change to the program last season.

Mr Zwar said his first sowing of Trojan wheat alongside established varieties Cobra and Wedgetail widened the planting window, potentially providing better results at harvest.

“We now have a more flexible planting window - slightly earlier than Cobra,” he said.

“Previously we wouldn’t sow wheat in our environment before May, but Trojan lets us plant a week earlier.

“We plan to finish seeding by mid May, so having that bit earlier planting window for Trojan allows us to get the crop in in an early fashion and carry on with the others.”

Russell farms with wife Davina and parents Don and Annette at ‘Brookleigh’.

This year the family is cropping 1200ha, of which 33 per cent is wheat, 33pc is faba beans and the remaining 33pc is canola, barley and oaten hay.

They have been growing Cobra for five seasons now and decided to bulk up 40ha of Trojan in 2015.

Despite the poor end to the season due to a heatwave at grain fill, the new addition hung on to deliver high yields.

“Trojan yielded 6.2t/ha in 2015 – a pretty pleasing result given the tough finish.  It looks like it will have that top end yield potential and comes with a solid disease package.”

Their long-term wheat average is 3.87t/ha.

This year they were able to seed 260ha of Trojan from April 27 to May 1 after seeding 150ha of Hyola 559TT and faba beans from mid-April.

“Moisture at planting was marginal but we were able to establish the crop on stored moisture from rains in February and March.

“Late May turned quite wet, so having that crop in early was definitely an advantage.”

The average annual rainfall is 550mm.  They received 450mm by the start of spring this year.

All of this has given them confidence that their system is returning to normal after most of their land was ravaged by fire in January 2014.

“We’ve had a couple of reasonable seasons and we’re back on track.”

Mr Zwar said they are happy to focus solely on their soil health and cropping programs after spending the past quarter-century introducing no-till, controlled traffic farming (CTF), disc seeding, variable rate (VR) fertiliser applications and direct heading in canola.

“We’re comfortable now.  We don’t foresee any more innovation in the short-term.”

Don and Annette oversaw one of the major innovations – no-till – while Russell and Davina implemented the other techniques.

No-till came in the early 1990s, CTF and disc seeding began in 2010, while VR and direct heading have been used in the past four seasons.

On the integrated weed management (IWM) front, they don’t have any set rotation, preferring to be flexible, but the range of crops provide different chemical MOAs.

Mr Zwar said the TT canola was effective against ryegrass, while non-herbicide weed control methods like haymaking were also effective.

In terms of weed suppression, going to 19cm spacings for cereals has delivered a yield increase while reducing ryegrass populations.

Harvest at Brookleigh usually takes place between November 10 and December 31.