Spades are trumps at Brookton

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Mt Kokeby farmer Andrew Pike is in no rush to start his seeding program the day after Anzac Day.

Rather, he's been busy ripping and spading, saying this is proving far more profitable than rushing to plant his crop early.

Instead, seeding would likely start by this weekend - provided rain forecast earlier in the week eventuated.

Mr Pike, who farms with wife Paula near Brookton, said earlier this week he was busy rotary spading (to 40cm) in addition deep ripping (to 50cm). He was also spreading lime and clay over various soil types in a bid to improve productivity.

By last Monday, Mr Pike said he had spaded 50ha in addition to deep ripping 80ha.

"Basically I'm trying to get as much done as I can before it's time to start seeding," he said.

Most of the land being ripped and spaded was yellow sand with some being white sand over gravel.

A paddock with quality red dirt and a low pH and had been spaded, and Mr Pike had spread lime over the same area.

Mr Pike started the large-scale working of the soil in his paddocks ahead of planting last year's crop, and is already convinced by the results.

"A spaded paddock which normally averages two tonnes of barley per hectare last year averaged 4.9 per hectare, using the Buloke variety," he said.

"The spading buried some of the non-wetting wax and vastly increased the soil retention ability. The yield improvement speaks for itself."

Mr Pike said he became a believer in the ripping and spading after planting lucerne on strips of spaded next to unspaded land, back in 2011.

The vast improvement in production on spaded strips convinced him to invest in his own ripping and spading equipment and to start a multi-year program of working all poor-quality soils on his property.

Mr Pike said he was unable to improve the full 2000ha that needed work as quickly as he would like, so he had also invested in the stiletto seeding system which was trialled last year.

"This showed a big difference with placing the seed on the side of the furrow with the moist soil and not in the middle of the furrow, where the non-wetting soil falls into," he said.

This year Mr Pike said his cropping program would consist of 600ha of wheat, 400ha of barley, 130ha of canola and 60ha of lupins.

Main varieties to be used include Latrobe and Scope barley, Magenta and Mace wheat and Bonito canola.

In terms of rainfall, the Pikes received about 25mm a few weeks back and 30mm in mid-to-late February.

"These early rains were very welcome. They meant the soil work was not so dusty and working wet soil easier on the equipment," he said. "It also really helped with providing sheep feed."

Mr Pike said he was now awaiting more rain, which was forecast earlier this week. If that failed to eventuate he may start dry seeding canola within days.

"Anzac Day has never really been the traditional start for us. It's always been more about when the opening rains arrive - and we have plenty to keep us busy in the meantime," Mr Pike said.

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