Seed crops offer glimpse into future

Seed crops offer glimpse into future


Cropping
DIVERSE OPERATION: Richard Verner's family has grown crops and pastures for seed production for decades. Growing medic for seed helps spread income when grain or livestock prices are struggling.

DIVERSE OPERATION: Richard Verner's family has grown crops and pastures for seed production for decades. Growing medic for seed helps spread income when grain or livestock prices are struggling.

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The Verner family has independently produced and sold seeds for decades because of a long-term arrangement with about half a dozen companies, which allows them to produce, clean and sell new seed varieties to farmers, wholesalers and re-sellers.

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The Verner family has farmed in the Mallala district since the 1860s and have expanded their mixed farming business into a successful multi-faceted enterprise. 

Richard Verner is a part of the family-run business RH Verner & Co, which sows 1900 hectares of cereal, legume and seed production crops annually, combining cropping with a self-replacing Merino flock. 

About 950ha of wheat and 570ha of barley were sown this season but Mr Verner said being a mixed farm and seed producer, the rotation is occasionally changed.

“Basically we change the rotation to suit what we are putting in that year, if there are a lot of new seed varieties, we could possibly put in more wheat and less barley, or more oats and legumes,” he said. 

“The percentage of the farm sown for seed crops would be 20 per cent to 30pc of the 1900ha.

“The September 2016 flood forced us to change the rotation this year and increase chemical treatments. We did this to increase weed control due to the amount of weeds that came in on the flood water.”

The Verner family has independently produced and sold seeds for decades because of a long-term arrangement with about half a dozen companies, which allows them to produce, clean and sell new seed varieties to farmers, wholesalers and re-sellers. 

This season new durum wheat varieties include AGTD043, DBA Vittaroi and DBA Bindaroi, and APW wheat variety Chief CL+.

“We have other new varieties that are at the pre-release stage, I have two paddocks in of new bean varieties but there is not a release status yet and the other will not be available until two years’ time,” Mr Verner said.

The 2017 rotation was held up slightly compared with the usual April/May sowing with crops going in throughout May and into June.

“A lot of crops took a few months to come up and another month to even out, it has only been the past month that it is looking like a decent crop,” he said. 

“We had about 25 millimetres in late July that came just in time to turn the season around and then in August we had about double (that).”

Concerns about mice damage had crops baited up to three times at 1 kilogram a hectare and Mr Verner said in hindsight he would have baited earlier and at higher ratios.    

“The main concern is the lack of moisture affecting crop quality and the ability to finish off, and not cause high screenings or protein issues –  another 25mm of rain would at least match the present crop potential,” he said. 

COMMITMENT KEY TO PRODUCING QUALITY MEDIC

Mr Verner comes from a long history of medic pasture seed producers after his grandfather set the wheels in motion more than 75 years ago. 

This season, 290 hectares of five medic varieties were sown to meet the demand for seed from farmers to use as either grazing pasture or hay production in Australia or overseas.

Mr Verner said the crop had begun to return nitrogen to poorer soils.

“When they began doing certified seed, we were lucky enough to be the first registered certified seed producer in this area,” he said.

The Verner family have continued to produce the seed because of demand and dwindling seed grower numbers. 

“It helps to produce an income when other cropping or livestock may be lower in a season so it is just another form of cash flow that is separate to the rest of the business,” Mr Verner said.

“Also part of the benefit of being in a mixed farming environment is medic crops can be grazed now, to feed sheep and then we just take them off to harvest it,” he said.

“It gives grazing when you normally would not have it and the sheep are very efficient at cleaning up weeds that you can not deal with chemically.” 

Mr Verner said a specialised team and machinery setup is needed to produce a quality crop. 

“You have to be prepared to throw a lot of time and effort at it,” he said. 

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