Thirsty vetches looking for rain

Countryman

It’s a case of just add water for the Walter family, which is just waiting for some autumn rain to germinate dry-seeded vetches.

The Cascade farmers, who also crop at Munglinup, have had the legume in their rotation for six years, generally growing it on their heavier Cascade country.

Not only is it used as a nitrogen-fixing break crop, it also fills a feed gap for the Walter family’s sheep.

“The vetches really just give us another dimension,” Wayne Walter said.

“You get more top growth and vegetable matter with the vetches and more nitrogen set. It’s bit like a pasture phase, but with less risk.

“Canola is a bit dicey here, but you need a rotation crop. You don’t want to grow all peas and we’ve still got sheep.

“We’ll grow a vetch, then we’ll grow two cereals and then probably come back to a pea after that — or maybe a vetch again.”

The vetches are grazed off and sprayed before seed set in September.

On the lighter soils at Munglinup, where there is generally a softer season finish, canola is used as a break crop instead of field peas or vetches.

Seeding of the family’s 2000ha canola program began on April 20 and plants have already germinated, with the Munglinup property picking up more than 100mm of rain since January this year.

The Munglinup cereal program got underway this week, but Wayne said they would wait for rain before starting cereals on the medium to heavy loam soils at Cascade.

Soil testing has shown reasonably high phosphorous levels, so fertiliser rates will vary between 40–60kg/ha of compound fertiliser and about 50L/ha of Flexi-N.

After that, rates will be adjusted according to the way the season pans out.

Despite an outlook predicting below average rains for the next couple of months, the Walters are hoping for strong spring rains after last season’s promising start fell short.

“Munglinup ended up with a pretty good season last year, but it still could have been better,” Wayne said.

“We had a lot of straw but we needed one more rain like everywhere else.

“The wheat stubbles look awesome, but 2.8 tonnes/ha was the best crop we got. We averaged 2.1t/ha for wheat and 2t/ha for barley over our whole cropping program.”

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