Pithara grower 'better at using moisture'

Jo FulwoodCountryman

It's the stuff that dreams are made of.

In fact, Pithara grower and Liebe Group president Gary Butcher can't quite believe how the season has turned around.

From one of the driest June periods ever recorded in his district to regular rainfall events in July, August and September, Mr Butcher is counting his blessings.

"Every farmer around here will take you to a place and show you the scars from the dry June and early July, but there is also some very good stuff around as well - how lucky we are," he said.

However, Mr Butcher said growers just 10km from him might not end up with the same result.

"It will be a good year for us, but you only have to go 10 km south and east and they didn't even get the opening rains," he said.

"For those that have crop out of the ground, it's been a big turnaround and it will be a reasonable year, but those unlucky enough not to get it out of the ground, they might get something but it's going to be quite disappointing for them."

Mr Butcher, his wife Kerry and son James, farm 4000ha of which 800ha is triazine-tolerant canola, 100ha is barley and 400ha is fallow, with the remainder of the property sown to Mace and Calingiri wheat.

"Calingiri has got a long sowing window in this area, and all the other noodle wheats have not matched Calingiri agronomically," Mr Butcher said. "Mace is dominating now in this area, my guess would be that three quarters of the planting in the district is Mace.

"Its ability to go as hard grade wheat is an extra string to its bow."

Mr Butcher said even though his property had only received 160mm for the growing season against an average of 260mm, the soil moisture profile was quite full.

"It's still a way off the average, but last year we only had 120mm growing season," he said. "We are getting better at using the moisture that we have and the timing of the rain this year has been really good.

"Once it woke up and decided to rain in July, the falls have been reasonable.

"We've had 25mm so far for September so launching into the last half of September with that much moisture under our belt, well, we often don't have that luxury."

Mr Butcher said September could be an "all or nothing" type of month and the saying went if there was a great August, there'd be a good finish. However, the rains are still needed in September.

"It's the turn around that we could only have dreamt of really," he said.

Mr Butcher said the Liebe Group's annual spring field day held last week had an excellent turnout of growers and industry representatives.

"We had some very interesting trials, particularly in regard to controlling canola as a weed in the following crop, and using deep ripping for hard pan removal and moisture retention," he said.

"We draw from quite a big area, and we have trials in the different rainfall zones and soils types since the spring field day site is in a different place each year.

"We have our next three years' sites already planned, growers have already put their hand up to have the sites and that enables us to do a bit of pre-planning for trial work.

"Anyone that has had a spring field day on their property, gains so much from the researchers during the year, there is a lot of one-on-one time with the researchers on farm.

"As farmers, we need the research, and the researchers want growers seeing relevant meaningful research.

"We can't do without each other."

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