WITH a dry outlook given at the start of the season, the Nitschke family at Taplan decided to keep it simple in their cropping program to reduce risk.
Tim Nitschke, with wife Steph and parents Ken and Kaye Nitschke, put in only wheat (1200 hectares of mainly Mace and Scepter) and triticale (600ha).
Last year, they grew a lot of barley, which yielded well, but weights and quality were down.
"The wheat and trit just worked out to be more profitable," Tim said.
"So going into this year with not much summer rain and the dry outlook, we decided to chuck barley out of our rotation."
The property has only had 75 millimetres of rain for the year, with only 60mm falling in the growing season.
Normally the country averages 250mm annually.
Tim, as the fourth generation, says it is the worst year the family has ever had in farming.
"But we are still getting the headers out, there has been many years where they didn't get the headers out," he said.
It is the first year they have grown Scepter and Tim says it is the best wheat they have grown to-date, considering the season.
"It is miles ahead of Mace here, even our frosted crops have re-shot and it's grown back well," he said.
It's this regrowth that is holding harvest up, which is expected to start in two weeks.
The Nitschkes are continuous cereal croppers, with some paddocks not left for fallow for up to 50 years.
Tim says modern seed treatments and varieties, better soil management, stubble retention and "old-fashioned fallowing" for weed control gives them the ability to do so.
They also put out high rates of fertiliser at seeding, urea in-crop, plus foliar sprays of zinc and liquid nitrogen.
"We also use organic products, such as Neutrog, particularly on our continuously cropped paddocks," Tim said.
The continuously-cropped paddocks had also been deep ripped during the 1990s.
Tim said they also focused heavily on summer weed control, which was a bit harder this year due to the lack of rain.
"We dry sowed about 90pc of our cropping program this year," he said.
"We ended up with more weeds, particularly ryegrass, than we would normally have as we didn't get that first knockdown before sowing.
"We also used Logran this year, which it has done a good job on most of the other broadleaf weeds, but it was all about cost this year."
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The Nitschkes also cut back their seeding rate from 55kg-plus to 40-45kg.
"Last year we noticed we were growing more consistent crops and less frost damage on the lesser rate so we expanded the area this season," he said.
"We also put less fertiliser out this year due to the lack of rain, which we may consider again next year if its another dry start, and then wait to see if we put more out in-crop."
But Tim remains hopeful for when the header starts rolling.
"It's amazing what we can grow here on such little rainfall," he said.
"That's why we stick with trit, as it's quite resilient in tougher climates.
"We store most of our grain to target the feed market, where the better prices are.
"It gives us a good income spread during the year and quite a profitable cereal to grow."
He hopes to average 0.5-1t/ha on wheat and maybe 0.5t/ha in the triticale.
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