Sur­viv­ing the bar­ley dis­as­ter

Farm­ers for­tu­nate to not put eggs in one bas­ket

Central and North Burnett Times - - FENCEPOST - Jack Lawrie Jack.Lawrie@cnbtimes.com.au

FARM­ERS and agron­o­mists are scram­bling to de­ter­mine the cause of a ma­jor de­cline in bar­ley crop in the Monto re­gion this har­vest.

Cur­rently, the most likely cul­prit for the breakdown is sus­pected to be an on­set of net blotch dis­ease which took root dur­ing the early win­ter months when the crop was planted.

Farmer Ron Tal­bot, who planted no pulse or grains be­sides bar­ley this year, saw un­ex­pected dev­as­ta­tion in his crop.

“We sprayed for net blotch right af­ter we first no­ticed it and it looked like we got con­trol of it,” Mr Tal­bot said.

“To look at you would have thought it would have gone at least two ton to the acre, but there were only two or three seeds in the head.”

The crop was planted in early June, with the ex­pec­ta­tion it would pass through a fairly dry win­ter.

Mr Tal­bot was sur­prised by the re­sults, and said if he hadn’t been hold­ing cat­tle at a time where cat­tle sale prices are do­ing well, the sit­u­a­tion could have had more se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial con­se­quences.

“I was ex­pect­ing nearly dou­ble the ton­nage and last year’s prices would have made a heck of a lot,” he said.

“My son did the spray­ing, but the chem­i­cal to spray was very dear. We had aphids as well so we had to spray a com­bi­na­tion.

“It cost a cou­ple of thousand for the chem­i­cals to spray a hun­dred acres.”

As it stands, it will be dif­fi­cult for him to hire help around the farm.

Mr Tal­bot has dif­fi­culty walk­ing unas­sisted due to a back op­er­a­tion, ne­ces­si­tat­ing help for stren­u­ous farm works such as plant­ing and har­vest­ing.

Ef­fect on soil

In a good sea­son, bar­ley should re­turn about two tons to the acre.

This year the crop yielded well below av­er­age with some producers un­der one ton to the acre.

Peter Sharp of the Monto Grain Co­op­er­a­tive said the grain it­self was not af­fected and was of good qual­ity.

“The prob­lem is a lot of the plants pro­duced a good head, but there were hardly any seeds.” Mr Sharp said.

Some farm­ers were able to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of the dis­ease by plant­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of bar­ley.

Mr Tal­bot found that the yield for Shep­herd bar­ley was much bet­ter than Ox­ford bar­ley, pro­duc­ing more seeds.

Un­for­tu­nately, this year he planted over­whelm­ingly more Ox­ford bar­ley due to it get­ting good yields the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

“It’s only about six acres of Shep­herd and nearly 90 acres of Ox­ford,” Mr Tal­bot said.

Lo­cal ex­perts are rec­om­mend­ing farm­ers plant dif­fer­ent crop in dis­ease-ef­fected pad­docks to give it time to dis­si­pate.

Agron­o­mist Ken­dall Muller said the dis­ease de­vel­oped in moist-warm con­di­tions.

“We didn’t get the cold frost this year to break the dis­ease cy­cle, it was a very mild win­ter,” Mr Muller said.

Mr Muller said the les­son to be learned was to avoid plant­ing bar­ley on bar­ley.

We sprayed for net blotch right af­ter we first no­ticed it and it looked like we got a con­trol of it — Ron Tal­bot

PHO­TOS: JACK LAWRIE

Farmer Ron Tal­bot, with dog Rusty, was spared the worst of the bar­ley hit thanks to cat­tle.

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Ir­ri­ga­tion line splits Shep­herd bar­ley on the left and Ox­ford on the right.

The farm on Aber­corn Rd will rely on cat­tle sales to sur­vive the bar­ley loss.

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