Canola given another go as harvest made easy

Canola given another go as harvest made easy

Grains
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A machine modification has encouraged the Allen family at Arthurton to increase their area sown to canola.

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DESPITE an industry trend away from growing the expensive and time-consuming crop, the Allen family at Arthurton have increased their area sown to canola.

Wal and Danny Allen, with parents Greg and Leonie and wives Leanne and Anna, crop 1750 hectares of wheat, barley, canola and lentils.

Last year only 120ha was sown to canola. This year it has increased to 300ha.

The family has doubled its cropping area in the past 12 months through leasing country - one reason for the increase in area sown.

The other was a move to direct harvest the crop.

"Three seasons ago, we were windrowing canola at harvest time and it was a hassle," Danny said.

"Not only is there more time spent in a paddock, but we were constantly having blockages at harvest time - we were very close to cutting it from the rotation."

We were very close to cutting it (canola) from the rotation. - DANNY ALLEN

Danny, a chief pilot for SA aviation business Aerotech, said a growing popularity towards aerial desiccation of canola crops encouraged them to give direct harvesting a try using their MacDon draper front header.

"In that first year (2017), our canola yields went from 2 tonnes/ha to 2.5t/ha - and it wasn't even a good year," he said.

"Our oil content also increased from about 43 per cent to 46pc. I think desiccating doesn't interrupt the crop like windrowing does.

"The crop has a bit more time to slowly finish itself, instead of just cutting off its water supply."

But blockages continued.

"We still had problems feeding the crop into our MacDon front," Danny said. "It would bunch up in front of the centre draper belt and wouldn't feed through properly."

Wal researched solutions and found the Turbodrum.

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"They had been having the same problem in WA so we had one fitted and harvesting was a breeze," Danny said.

The retro-fit feed spiral, to replace units on MacDon header fronts, was designed by WA farmer Mic Fels and engineer Laurie Phillips.

"The smaller diameter drum barrel is more aggressive and feeds the canola into the harvester more consistently," Danny said.

"Harvest was quicker and there was less fire risk."

Danny said they also achieved the same yields, but had a less grumpy header driver.

According to its WA designers, the Turbodrum fixes the "Achilles heel" of the MacDon draper front.

"We all love the MacDons because of the suspension system, their weight and ground following ability - except for the feeder drum," Mr Fels said.

The Turbodrum is a replacement feed spiral, which features a smaller diameter barrel, larger flighting, more aggressive fingers and a beefier crankshaft and bearings.

"It has more than double the number of retractable fingers, with a much more aggressive pattern," Mr Fels said. "It literally grabs crop and pulls it through in a constant and steady flow."

UP AND AWAY: Pioneer 44Y90 canola sown into lentil stubbles in the first week of May. It has since had about 100 millimetres of rain.

UP AND AWAY: Pioneer 44Y90 canola sown into lentil stubbles in the first week of May. It has since had about 100 millimetres of rain.

SEASON BACK ON TRACK AFTER DRY

THE 2019 cropping season is back on track for the Allen family, after 28 millimetres fell at their Arthurton property last week.

Danny Allen, the seventh generation of his family to farm on upper Yorke Peninsula, said in their more than 50 years of collecting rain records, they have never had a drier start to the year.

"Thankfully now we have cracked 100mm for the year," he said.

The Allens didn't start seeding until the break came in early May.

"It was too dry to take the risk," he said. "We had only had 4mm since the last good rain in September.

"We were lucky with the rain last week because the barley was turning blue and the canola was wilting."

This year they are growing Planet barley and Hallmark lentils for the first time, while chickpeas have been "given the boot" because of marketing uncertainty and disease issues.

"Chickpeas are either $1000/t or no-one wants them," Danny said.

"Lentils are equally inconsistent, but there is generally always a market for them at harvest time.

"Our chickpeas are still in storage from last year."

Danny said while many farmers had been put off growing canola this year because of high input costs and low prices forecast, he felt the oilseed was more reliable than other crops.

"We don't tend to hang our decisions too heavily on prices at seeding time, as it can change so much over the year," he said.

"Lentil prices can fluctuate, whereas canola is a bit more stable."

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