Yields push to build on grower focus
A MAJOR project looking to boost cereal production across Tasmania was launched last week.
About 100 farmers turned out for the Hyper Yielding Cereal Project field day at Hagley.
The project aims to increase average red wheat feedgrain yields from 4.4 tonnes a hectare up to 7 tonnes a hectare by 2020 and to boost commercial wheat crop yields to 14 tonnes a hectare in the same time.
The trial includes 50 wheat and 11 barley varieties in more than 800 individual plots.
At last week’s field day a range of guest speakers discussed challenges growers could meet as they push to lift yields.
Patrick Stephenson, a leading British agronomist, shared experiences from the UK’s cereal industry expansion.
Mr Stephenson said to boost production in Tasmania to 14 tonnes a hectare or more, a change of mindset would be needed.
“You need to rethink how you’re growing wheat.
“At the moment it’s often a break crop between high-value crops, but is has to be considTHE ered more as a high-value crop itself.”
Each year about 1.8 million hectares of wheat is now grown in the UK and Mr Stephenson said this meant there had been much more focus on wheat by plant breeders, companies supplying crop treatments and agronomists.
“The most important decision you’ll make is the variety you’re going to grow,” he said.
“For a long time in he UK the focus was on yield, but now resistance is a problem, so they are looking for varieties with more natural resistance. Now we’re getting a balance between good yields and disease resistance.”
He said a smaller range of treatment options for fungal diseases would be a challenge for Tasmanian growers.
“It’s the finer points that get you the big yields,” he said.
“If you’re aiming for yields over 14 tonnes you need to get the basic parts right first.”
New Zealand farmer Warren Darling currently holds the record for the highest yielding barley crop of 13.8 tonnes a hectare.
The previous world record crop of 12.2 tonnes was grown 25 years ago.
Mr Darling told farmers the high yield could be attributed to a number of factors including the coastal location of his farm and a very good season.
Other critical factors include getting soil preparation right and correct seed placement at sowing to get the right plant density.
Mr Darling his operation incorporated crop residues into the soil soon after harvesting and tried to minimise soil compaction.
He said to ensure crop nutrition was spot on they did regular tissue testing throughout the season.
“There were no secret recipes I could pinpoint to getting this crop,” he said.
“It just comes down to a few things, getting the agronomy right, knowing the key growth stages and also having a good season and location helped.”
It’s the finer points that get you the big yields
Glamorgan Spring Bay Council has agreed to forward almost 4000 representations relating to proposed salmon farming at Okehampton Bay to the Tasmanian Planning Commission but its view is the concerns raised in the representations do not warrant changes.
Residents packed the Triabunna council chambers this week and signs reading “no fish farms” were on display.
Deputy Mayor Cheryl Arnol said she had “grave concerns” about the number of identical representations submitted through Environment Tasmania. Of the 3863 submissions made, 3795 were identical.
“That site has been home to aquaculture activities for 40 years,” Cr Arnol said.
“The last time it was pristine was when Aboriginal people fished there in canoes.”
Tassal plans to install 28 pens holding 800,000 fish in Okehampton Bay.
Orford resident and president of RecFish Tasmania Don Paton said the board of his organisation was “100 per cent” against the fish-farm proposal.
“We’ve got one of the last, most beautiful, untouched parts of Tasmania left on the East Coast and to let [Tassal] up here would be an absolute disaster,” he said.
Resident Bernie Wangeman said his home was close to the proposed development.
“It does affect our amenities, there’ll be noise, there’ll be lights, there’ll be traffic, I could probably live with that, but I can’t live with what they’re doing to the ocean.”