Kingaroy family mark quarter-century as farming trial co-operators

October 10, 2018


Norco Kingaroy manager Noel James and Graham Barbeler.

Kingaroy farming family the Barbelers have reached a career milestone this year, marking a quarter-century of trialling pre-commercial and commercial crops on their farm.

Father-and-son Graham and Jeff Barbeler partnered with seed company Pacific Seeds in 1993, planting a multitude of grain sorghum and corn varieties on their property, and have been going ever since.

Jeff Barbeler said the trials were hard work but the information they could extract from them was invaluable.

“There’s a lot of set up involved.  You need the right equipment, you need to ensure the machinery is clean when moving from one crop to another, and conditions need to be consistent across all plots,” he said.

“It doesn’t cost us anything aside from labour and a section of our paddock.  We then get an idea of which varieties work in our environment, the company gets data to feed back to its agronomists and breeders, and the wider industry can access this information later on.

“When people ask us which varieties we plant, we can tell them which ones and why, because you have all this yield, planting, harvest, chemical and rainfall data going back decades to support your decisions.”

Their most recent trial was grain sorghum, which they planted in early December on 90cm rows with John Deere MaxEmerge planter boxes and moisture seeking tynes,

They planted a total of 105 hectares of sorghum, which included their commercial crops of MR-Taurus, MR-Bazley and MR-Buster.  These varieties also featured in trials alongside PAC2745, MR-Apollo and PAC2476.

Mr Barbeler said the trial got off to a troubled start due to a powerful hail storm, but then something unexpected happened.

“Rain was a bit light on at the start of the season.  We planted on December 7 and got the sorghum up about 10 inches high, then we copped a Boxing Day hail storm which wiped everything out.  There were just little stumps sticking out of the ground.

“After that, there was a bit of a dry spell and rain came later in the season.  A lot of it came back up - I was pretty surprised that we still managed a decent crop.”

The pair harvested the sorghum in May and recorded an average yield of 4t/ha.

Mr Barbeler said the standout variety for the 2017-18 trial was MR-Bazley.

“It seemed like a really hardy crop.  Bazley is tough, consistent and a good yielder, which are key attributes for us.”

They also planted 60ha of corn, but because the corn was planted later, it did not suffer like the sorghum.

Looking at the approaching summer season for their program, as well as beyond in their capacity as trial co-operators, he said they remained positive.

“This season we’ll be putting in MR-Bazley, MR-Buster and MR-Taurus as our commercial crops, and hopefully some new hybrids for evaluation too.

“We’ll probably make it past 30 years of trials if we’re asked to continue.”