A DEAL to lock away 12,000 hectares of scrub for conservation has allowed the Barnes family at Lethero Station, via Pooncarie, NSW, to clear land for cropping and livestock, ensuring the property remains viable into the future.
Opening up the extra land will also allow the fourth generation landowners to introduce peas and barley into what was previously a continuous wheat cropping program.
Tom Barnes – who runs the property alongside parents Helen and Laurence, and brother Sam – says introducing peas and barley as break crops is a tactic to improve soil health and inject nutrients back into the ground.
“Some of our cropping ground has been cropped continuously for 25 years with no breaks because we simply didn’t have enough ground,” he said.
“Because it’s been continuously cropped for that long, we’re finding that we’re having to put more costing – more fertilisers, etc – to get the wheat to go to the grade we want.”
Mr Barnes said protein levels had dropped off in the intensively-cropped areas, with a new four-year rotation of wheat-wheat-barley-peas across different paddocks allowing more flexibility to tackle the nutrient deficiency problem.
“We’re trying to get nutrients back into the ground and the peas are really good at that,” he said. “It also gives you options with spraying grasses in-crop.
“You can spray in peas to kill grasses, whereas crops like barley and wheat you can’t so it gives you more chemical options.
“There’s all different types of chemicals you can go into to spray grasses out.”
Originally with only 4000ha to 6000ha of open country on the 66,000ha property, land clearing permits will allow the family to clear 6000ha more for cropping or sheep.
They are clearing 400ha a year and Mr Barnes said he had already noticed improved yields on the newly-available land.
The family finished a successful harvest in mid-December, with a yield average of about 2.4t/ha across the entire farm for Yitpi and Grenade wheat, with some areas peaking at 4t/ha.
Tom said 1.5t/ha crops were about what was expected in an average year.
“We pulled off the most amount of grain that we’ve ever pulled off,” Tom said.
“We’re only keeping seed and we sold the rest off.
“We started harvest when no one had really hit the market with wheat. The wheat we hit the market with first was off new ground and went H2.
“We sold it straight away because prices were at the highest they were going to be, so we sold it as quickly as we could harvest it.
“Normally we’d play the market and keep it but I think it’s a one-way trip this year.”
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