IT has been a tough start to the season for Lower South East grower Chris Gilbertson, reflecting the situation for many other farmers in the region.
His area between Hatherleigh and Rendelsham missed the season break they would normally get in early April, which would then be supported by follow-up rains now.
Instead, he and his brother James have been battling unusually high temperatures for May, making seeding conditions very difficult.
But rainfall in the past week has put things back on track to a certain extent.
"Up until Thursday last week we had about 35 millimetres, which we were very happy with," Chris said.
"Now we're just looking forward to some follow-up."
Since the rain, Chris has been waiting for weeds to start germinating so he can knock them off with the sprayer and restart sowing.
"We'll start on the wheat again before we head onto the canola," he said.
This year, the Gilbertons will crop 1200 hectares made up of 300ha of wheat, 300ha of canola, and 300ha of broadbeans, with the rest consisting of barley as well as carrots and clover for small seed production.
They also run 5000 Border Leicester-Merino ewes on 800ha of grazing land.
The Gilbertsons buy in their Merinos from Don and Monica Densley, Keith, through the Keith off-shears sale.
With minimal rain during April, apart from 15 millimetres on April 20, they began dry sowing wheat – an unusual tactic for them as they have never sown dry.
"That 15mm of rain was the only rain to speak of for months," Chris said.
"We put the wheat in to get sheep feed for winter, but we'll still harvest it later on."
It was certainly a tough time for a place that normally posts an average annual rainfall of more than 700mm.
The Gilbertsons opt for Clearfield 45Y86 canola, Revenue and Forest wheats, and Oxford barley for their cropping.
Everything sown goes in with 100 kilograms a hectare of MAP through their double-chute Flexicoil seeder.
It is followed up with urea on cereals and canola, and topped up with more nitrogen towards the end of the season if all goes well.
The Gilbertsons make decisions on the type of wheat and barley to use in consultation with the Mackillop Farm Management Group. They host the group's Black Point trial site on their property and this has enabled them to study growth patterns and results before making their choice.
"I've been tied up with the group since it started and been on the committee for the past three years," Chris said.
"It's where we got all our information on different varieties and that sort of thing.
"If varieties are no good on the trial plot, we're not going to grow it."
Revenue, Forest and Oxford were part of the Black Point trial and have all performed well on the Gilbertsons' property.
The plot itself is 1.5ha and hosts a number of different wheat and barley trials for the MFMG.
"Both Revenue and Forest are high-rainfall, high-yielding wheats. Revenue is a feed wheat while Forest is a grade wheat," Chris said.
"Oxford is a feed barley and yields well – it's a feed barley that grows."
*Full report in Stock Journal, May 23 issue, 2013.