Vari­able rate tech works on Co­bra wheat crops

Australian Farmers & Dealers Journal - - NEWS -

MAIN­TAIN­ING a prof­itable broad­acre crop­ping in­dus­try in Aus­tralia can be tough amid vari­able weather and ris­ing in­put costs. Some grow­ers are meet­ing the chal­lenge by adopting new tech­nolo­gies and im­proved plant va­ri­eties to get the great­est ef­fi­cien­cies and yield from their land. While many farm­ers have been util­is­ing GPS-based Pre­ci­sion Agriculture (PA) tech­nolo­gies for a while, a grow­ing num­ber (just over 40 per cent ac­cord­ing to the CSIRO) have taken up Vari­able Rate Tech­nol­ogy (VRT) for ap­ply­ing chem­i­cals. VRT en­ables them to ac­count for and tai­lor ap­pli­ca­tions to the change in soil type and con­di­tions across a tract of land. Ac­cord­ing to the CSIRO, some grow­ers may re­alise up to a $50/ha ad­van­tage us­ing VRT. One farm busi­ness that has taken up the tech­nol­ogy is the Cos­grove Farm­ing Com­pany on Western Aus­tralia's north coast. “Our lat­est ven­ture has been VRT on the seeder to vary com­pound fer­tiliser and potash by zone rather than a blan­ket ap­pli­ca­tion,” crop­per Ge­off Cos­grove said. The op­er­a­tion runs 13,000 hectares for crop­ping and live­stock across seven prop­er­ties on coun­try that varies greatly – stretch­ing from Min­genew (sand­plain coun­try) in the north, Ar­rino (loamy) to the east and Ar­row­smith East (loamy) in the west. Mr Cos­grove said their other ef­fi­ciency-boost­ing prac­tices in­cluded min­i­mum till, auto-steer ma­chin­ery and con­trolled traf­fic. “We prac­tice min­i­mum tillage, with deep rip­ping re­quired on some of the sand­plain coun­try to open up the soil so the plants can draw wa­ter from deeper. This can add up to an ex­tra tonne per hectare in yield in ce­re­als. “All of our fleet is auto-steer and we are us­ing con­trolled traf­fic as­so­ci­ated with tram­lin­ing to re­duce com­paction.” Mr Cos­grove farms with his wife Fiona, par­ents Gary and Alison, and broth­ers Owen and Andrew. The crop­ping pro­gram typ­i­cally in­cludes 6000ha of wheat, 2000ha of canola and 2000ha of lupins, with the re­main­ing land used for 2000 Merino breed­ing ewes and 150 Black An­gus breeder cat­tle, or chem­i­cal fal­low. Mr Cos­grove han­dled most of the wheat pro­gram last sea­son, over­see­ing 3000ha of Co­bra, 1000ha of Wyalkatchem, 1000ha of Calin­giri and 1000ha of Mace. High yield­ing, early-mid sea­son, AH va­ri­ety Co­bra has been part of the pro­gram since 2011. “It has been our main va­ri­ety since bulk­ing up in 2011 and will re­main so into the fu­ture,” he said. Last year, the Cos­groves started seed­ing wheat on May 15 us­ing a John Deere with 1830 bar, stiletto points and boots, and fin­ished two weeks later. De­spite crops bleed­ing yields in some ar­eas of WA last sea­son due to tough con­di­tions, the Cos­groves were con­tent with the yields from their wheat and canola. A pe­riod of ex­treme heat a few months from har­vest cut up to a tonne per hectare in wheat yields and 800kg/ha in canola yields. “Rain­fall was a bit be­low our av­er­age of 350mm, sit­ting at about 320mm, but it was the hot spell in Au­gust, where we had 35 de­gree days, five days in a row, that threw us a bit,” Mr Cos­grove said. Har­vest be­gan on Oc­to­ber 15 with a John Deere 9770 di­rect header on canola first then wheat, fin­ish­ing up on De­cem­ber 1. “Co­bra was miles ahead of any­thing else. We saw 6t/ha in the best ar­eas,” he said. Their av­er­age for the wheat pro­gram was 2.3t/ha, with Co­bra com­ing out best at 2.5t/ha av­er­age. Mr Cos­grove said the fam­ily will con­tinue to em­ploy spa­tiallyaware tech­nolo­gies along with high yield­ing canola and wheat va­ri­eties to im­prove their bot­tom line.

Grower Ge­off Cos­grove (left) and Pa­cific Seeds ter­ri­tory man­ager Steve Lamb in a pad­dock of Co­bra wheat.

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