Crop rewards at Roseworthy

Crop rewards at Roseworthy


DESPITE some ups and downs during the past 12 months, John Matherson said it has been a great year for crops.

DESPITE some ups and downs during the past 12 months, Roseworthy Campus Farm manager John Matheson said it has been a great year for crops.

RAIN BOOST: Martindale Holdings farm manager John Matheson said yields were the best he had seen at the Roseworthy Campus Farm.

RAIN BOOST: Martindale Holdings farm manager John Matheson said yields were the best he had seen at the Roseworthy Campus Farm.

“I’d take this year, every year,” he said.

The 1500-hectare property is operated by the University of Adelaide’s farming company Martindale Holdings Pty Ltd, and is run as a normal farm with the goal to bring in income to support the faculty’s research.

It comprises about 1300ha of cropping, alongside 200ha used for grazing, with cereals about two-thirds of the cropping operation.

This year the rotation included Corack, Scepter and Kord wheats, Compass barley, faba beans, Hurricane lentils and Aurora durum, as well as oaten hay.

Mr Matheson described the year as “almost perfect”, despite some early concerns with aphids and disease, as well as issues of soil drift in paddocks burnt in 2015.

“We had rain throughout the year, then when the haymaking started, the rain stopped, so the hay harvest went quite well,” he said.

The biggest win this year has been yields.

“Our 11-year average yield for durum (wheat) is 3.4 tonnes a hectare – we got 7t/ha,” he said. 

“Our average for barley is 3.3t/ha – we got 6t/ha.

“I’ve never seen yields like this before – it’s phenomenal.

“Prices are down but the yields are making up for the lack of price.”

The lift is across the board.

“Last year beans went 0.8t/ha, this year it was 3.5t/ha – about five times better,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything different than any other year, we simply had rain at the right time.”

They initially sowed some crops dry, but were rewarded with rain in May.

“When it started, it just kept going,” he said.

“The most important was the spring rain, and this is the first time we’ve had that kind of rain in the 12 years I’ve been here.”

Mr Matheson said the September rain was almost double their 45 millimetre average, at 105mm, while the annual rain was 610mm, against a long-term average of 434mm. 

Another notable sign of this season was the delayed end to harvest, after starting on November 28.

“Some years we’d be finished by then,” he said.

The final 150ha of wheat was expected to be harvested this week.

They would normally be finished before Christmas.

“We were baling hay while starting harvest, and we’re doing summer spraying while finishing harvest – everything overlapped this year,” he said.

“We would stop for fire danger, then we would get rain.

“We had about half a dozen stoppages in four days.”

The high yields at Roseworthy Campus Farm are a turnaround from the previous year.

The farm had about 400 hectares burnt in the Pinery fire in November 2015.

Mr Matheson said this made those living and working in the region particularly sensitive to the grassfire danger index.

He said he had fears about the long-term impact of the fire but there had not been major ill-effects from the fire on the harvest.

“We did get a lot of winds early in the year and, because we had zero ground cover, we had a lot of sand drift,” he said.

With a dry start to the year, there was also little moisture to hold the soil together.

Other concerns during the year were fungal disease, particularly rust in cereals, as a side effect of the wet weather.

Mr Matheson said these were sprayed early but supply ran out, with fungicides difficult to find.

“We would have liked to give the crops another spray,” he said.

“We couldn’t buy the fungicides so we had to hope for the best.

“As it turned out, it didn’t matter at all.”

Russian wheat aphid was another concern.

He said they sprayed some of the pastures in April with chlorpyrifos.

In consultation with agronomists, they decided to spray the RWA at a higher rate than for normal aphids because “they were a bit of an unknown”.

“That seemed to tidy them up,” he said. “We didn’t really see them after that.”


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