ONGOING dry conditions through spring and summer have prompted Sanderston farmer Tim Starkey to add canola to his cropping program for the first time.
Other than the introduction of canola, his seeding plans will remain as usual.
"We're trying canola because of the Intervix residue from using Clearfield wheat and barley varieties," Tim said.
"We haven't had enough rain to get rid of the residue so we've got to use something that we can grow on it - otherwise we'd be relying on the Clearfield too much."
In a wetter year Mace wheat would be used as a wheat-on-wheat option following Clearfield variety Justica.
"Justica would be the first wheat after a break crop so we can get two years grass-free, then if we'd had enough rain, ideally we'd come back with Mace," he said.
Tim, his wife Jo and son Scott own the 1740-hectare Green Gables 6 kilometres north of Sanderston, and sharefarm a further 200ha. About 1600ha is cropped each year, with 1100ha of Justica, Mace and Axe wheat, 200ha of Scope barley and 120ha of Gunya peas, plus 150ha of vetch and 30ha of oats for hay.
"We use Axe on our eastern ground where it's a bit lower rainfall," he said.
"Mace was selected because it's the highest yielding variety, and it's a good option as a second wheat crop."
This year, 43C80 canola will be added to the mix.
"I've just been hanging off and hanging off because hay and peas have been our break crops and we've done very well out of them, but we've got to the stage now where we need that other option," he said.
"In the last three years we've had summer rainfall - this is the first year that we haven't got any subsoil moisture so it'll be a bit different in that respect, but hopefully we'll get a wet winter for a change," he said.
"Once it comes to the end of April, if we haven't had rain we'll start regardless with our vetch, followed by our peas then our Clearfield wheats."
The Starkeys use a Morris Series 1 Contour Drill - set to 30-centimere row spacings - and a Morris 8300XL Bin with a 3800L Liquid Systems tank. Barley is sown at 60 kilograms/ha, and wheat at 70kg/ha across the farm.
They have now been using the liquid fertiliser system for three years, with Tim hailing it "mess-free" and simple to use.
"When we bought the bin, we liked that it was all incorporated in the machine - it's so neat," he said. "We went with the liquids after seeing other people's results and doing some sums. The cost to get zinc on your fertiliser was ridiculous, the way we were getting charged for it, and it was only a little bit here and there whereas if you're putting it down the furrow it's a continuous stream all the way along.
"Zinc's not mobile at all so we're putting it just below the seed. We do it every year because it's such a small cost to put on 300 grams of actual zinc each year, which works out to about 1.5kg of zinc sulphate.
"The cost of us putting zinc out now when we dissolve it ourselves is virtually $2.50/ha."
UAN will be applied underneath the seed to second-year cereals and canola-on-cereal crops at 30 litres/ha. Tim believes this gives the crops an early boost and results in better vigour in the young plants.
"When we first got the liquid system we kept it simple and just used zinc without liquid fertiliser," he said. "Because we were on 30cm row spacings and single shooting we were using a DAP-urea blend as the granular fertiliser and I didn't think we were getting as good a germination as we should have been - I think we were getting burnt from the urea.
"In the second year we trialled different rates of UAN in certain paddocks - up to as high as 50 litres/ha of UAN - and we were getting exceptionally good germination and early vigour. It really stood-out when you compared the strips with UAN and without."
*Full report in Stock Journal, March 14 issue, 2013.