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Early seeding pays off

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

On-farm trials are demonstrating that early seeding opportunities, despite a staggered start to the season, achieve a better yield result than waiting for rain.

Trials at the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association annual spring field day, held last week in Cunderdin, showed wheat yields would drop off significantly if sown after June 1.

Early visual results also show canola does not yield at the optimum levels if it is sown after mid-May.

WANTFA's Small Farm Dry Seeding Demonstration is in its second year, looking at 24 times of sowing both wheat and canola.

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WANTFA executive director David Minkey said the trials illustrated the importance of knowing when the last optimum sowing date was for both wheat and canola, and working backwards from there.

He said while the trials involved 24 different dates of seeding, not all seeding times were considered dry.

"For this trial we really didn't get a true dry seeding opportunity, and that was mirrored across the Wheatbelt, with a lot of farmers moisture-seeking early, then when they got into May they thought they were dry seeding, but they still got a germination," he said.

"So what we saw was a staggered germination, but early indications are showing that even a staggered germination is better than sowing really late.

"These trials are demonstrating that, rather than wait until the end of May or early June to get the moisture, you are better off trying to get the optimum yield potential according to sowing date.

"All the modelling work is showing that while there is an increase in frost risk with dry seeding, this risk is only slight because of the spread of the flowering window."

Mr Minkey said after June 1, Mace wheat dropped 40kg in yield per day. He said some wheat varieties also did not yield well if sown too early in April, such as Mace, Yitpi and Trojan.

Other trials on show included the CSIRO early-sown winter and spring wheats for opportunistic wet sowing.

Mr Minkey said results from this trial in 2014 showed early wet-sown winter wheat varieties could achieve up to half a tonne increase on later-sown crops. But he warned that these results could only be achieved if there was a wet early start to the season.

"Obviously this is about capturing those early wet opportunities as they arise," he said.

Other trials on display included nutrient responses from wheat on wheat, versus wheat after canola, and the control of spot-form net blotch through soil and foliar fungicides in La Trobe barley.

Various oat trials were also on display, responding to the increase in grower interest in growing oat crops throughout the Wheatbelt.

Mr Minkey estimated more than 150 farmers and consultants attended. Further trial results will be released after harvest.

Southern Cross farmer Clint Della Bosca was elected the association's new chairman at the annual general meeting held at the field day. Mr Della Bosca takes over from Corrigin farmer Wes Baker.

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