‘Sow early, spray often’

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Beaumont farmer Tom Brown is feeling optimistic after good rains and an early start to the season.
Camera IconBeaumont farmer Tom Brown is feeling optimistic after good rains and an early start to the season. Credit: Countryman

Early sowing, vigorous weed spraying and the application of precision agricultural techniques are among the critical factors driving successful grain farming business, according to Beaumont farmers Tom and Victoria Brown.

Other factors that have contributed to the profitability of their property in recent years include the use of more suitable varieties, and minimum tillage.

The Browns farm 64km north-east of Esperance in an area that has seen some tough years over the past few decades. The Browns run a continuous cropping enterprise of 4500ha, planting canola, wheat and barley.

They finished seeding on May 4 this year, while many other farmers across the grainbelt where just beginning their programs.

“Due to good sub-soil moisture, we started seeding in early April and finished by May 4,” Mr Brown said.

“With 245mm received so far this season, and in light of our average rainfall of 445mm, this season is looking good, with the possibility of a four tonne average for our cereals.

“One of the reasons I like to seed early is to get the crops to finish between August and early September.

“As of late, the seasons seem to finish by mid-September and the crops struggle a bit if they have been planted as though an October finish was likely.”

He was hopeful that the moisture in the profile would carry the crops in the case of a dry finish.

Mr Brown said one risk was that high yields might not occur if the winter was too wet.

Frost hadn’t been a big issue to date, and not something Mr Brown factored into his planning.

Control of weeds was another big part of their program. The Browns would attempt to control winter weeds with all chemicals available. Crop topping canola at the end of the growing season was working very well.

“Summer spraying is also important. We cover the farm four to five times with our summer program,” he said.

“This seems excessive but I have noticed that if you keep the weeds controlled soon after germination, the moisture remains closer to the surface, which means that you don’t need very much rain to get another germination — so out we go again.”

Mr Brown said many farmers in the Esperance area were early adopters of precision agricultural techniques.

“We all jumped on to that concept early in the game. We had our tractors set up for auto steer as soon as we could to reduce the impact of driver error on the end yield result,” he said.

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