Somerton sorghum grower Will Chaffey hopeful in season’s prospectsJanuary 20, 2022
Original article and photos by Billy Jupp, The Land (Published 21 January 2022)
When Will Chaffey had to wait until August last year to harvest his summer sorghum crop, he promised his wife, Lil, he would never plant as late as he did in 2021, ever again.
Living up to his promise, the Somerton grower planted his crop of Pacific Seeds MR-Bazley sorghum on October 20 instead of early January like last year and the move is shaping up to be a masterstroke.
“We had sorghum in this same paddock last summer and to be honest, it ended up being a bit of a headache for us because we planted it on January 1, which, coupled with having such a wet year, meant we had to wait until mid-August to get it off,” Mr Chaffey said.
“Along with the mouse plague, feral pigs and even birds having a go at it, it was difficult to see it go from maybe a six tonne per hectare crop down to maybe four-and-a-half or five.
“I told my wife Lil that if I didn’t have it planted by early October (this year) I wouldn’t bother and while I may have missed that deadline, I think how well it’s going should hopefully make it worth it.”
Despite already having received 320 millimeters of rain since planting, Mr Chaffey said he was confident the crop would still be ready for harvest in four to six weeks.
“The amount of rain the crop’s had meant the ball was very much in our court and if something was going to go wrong it would be our fault, not the plant’s,” he said.
“Since we’ve sown it, there hasn’t really been any signs of moisture stress at all, which has been nice.
“To be honest, we have almost forgotten about it a few times with the winter harvest dragging on for three or four months, so it hasn’t been at the forefront of our mind all the time.”
As well offering up a lesson in when to plant his summer crops, Mr Chaffey said 2021 had highlighted the benefits of his family’s mixed-enterprise operation, which also includes winter cropping, sheep and cattle.
“Even though our winter crops were downgraded due to the spring rain it was kind of nice to see that it was doing something positive and helping the sorghum boom,” he said.
“The other thing it has taught me is that planting it earlier is probably the better way to go, because we saw last year it can be a bit of a headache if you opt to plant it later.”
Mr Chaffey’s agronomist, Alice Bowler, AMPS, Tamworth, said crops across the North West were shaping up well.
“There was a fair bit of early-sown crops that have got away fairly well and rain is falling as those crops are flowering, which should hopefully secure some pretty decent yields,” she said.
“I don’t like to predict too much, but I think there will probably be a lot of 7t/ha crops around and some that may go bigger.”