Dry start fails to quell KI cropper optimism

Dry start fails to quell KI cropper optimism


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THERE is plenty of optimism about for the 2017 cropping season on Kangaroo Island, with dry-sown crops boosted by 5 millimetres to 10mm of rain earlier this week.

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UNDER WAY: Kangaroo Island croppers Jenny and Will Stanton (pictured centre with niece Addison Stanton, 2, and daughter Annabelle, 2), Stokes Bay and Parndana, started seeding on April 23, with early-sown wheat and canola already out of the ground. They had 8mm of rain on Tuesday.

UNDER WAY: Kangaroo Island croppers Jenny and Will Stanton (pictured centre with niece Addison Stanton, 2, and daughter Annabelle, 2), Stokes Bay and Parndana, started seeding on April 23, with early-sown wheat and canola already out of the ground. They had 8mm of rain on Tuesday.

THERE is plenty of optimism about for the 2017 cropping season on Kangaroo Island, with dry-sown crops boosted by 5 millimetres to 10mm of rain earlier this week.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, more light showers are expected across KI in the coming days, and may continue into next week.

Newly-appointed KI Pure Grain chief executive officer Shane Mills said sowing was well under way and that growers were positive so far about the season.

“The region didn’t get the big rains that the South East had in early April, but there’s still plenty of subsoil moisture from the start of the year, so people are still confident the season is going to be reasonable,” he said.

AgKI cropping trials manager Jenny Stanton said it had been dry at Stokes Bay, but the 8mm of rain on Tuesday had helped.

The 1500-hectare Stanton family farm, run by Jenny and husband Will, Will’s brother Michael and his wife Sarah, and the boys’ parents Richard and Kate Stanton, crops 750ha of wheat, barley, canola, broad beans, oats and peas at Stokes Bay and south-east of Parndana, alongside 136 head of cattle and a 7800-head sheep flock, which includes the Stokes Bay Genetics Poll Dorset and Poll Merino stud.

They started seeding on April 23, after receiving 15mm at Stokes Bay and up to 40mm at Parndana. 

“The early-sown wheat and canola is already out of the ground, while the rest is slowly emerging,” Jenny said. “There haven’t been any real issues so far, just some mice holes, but no visible damage.”

They will sow barley and peas this week.

The Stantons also grew a sunflower/millet cover crop for the first time this year to make the most of the wet harvest, sown on December 28.

“Last year, we grew about 6-7ha for seed, which we have done again this year, while also sowing about 135ha of a sunflower/millet mix,” Jenny said.

“Because we get so wet in the winter, we are hoping the deep-root crop can dry out the profile, but also keep a living root in the ground year-round to improve our soil biology. Having a dry profile also helps in reducing slugs.”

Wethers have been grazing the crop, but it will be sprayed out soon in preparation for a winter crop of peas and barley.

According to PIRSA’s 2016-17 harvest summary in March, KI produced 36,200t from 17,900ha, with wheat, oats and beans the major crops.

KIPG handled 20,000t of that crop, with beans, canola and wheat sold into SE Asia and domestically.

“Early indications of cropping intentions show areas sown to canola could decrease in favour of broad beans,” the report said.

Mrs Stanton agreed, saying broad beans continued to prove popular on the island.

“Last season’s harvest was mixed,” she said. “We had waterlogging in some areas, but the non-waterlogged areas yielded really well.

“Broad beans are a more water-tolerant crop and if you get the big bean size, you can make really good money, so some people are cutting back on lupins and canola to go into beans.

“It’s also a good grazing crop, so if the crop ends up being too waterlogged, it can still be utilised.”

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