Couple go back to basics

Claire TyrrellCountryman

A dry start to the year has prompted Binnu farmers Damien and Clara Harris to go back to what they know.

The Harrises, who farm about 10km east of Binnu on a 1750-hectare property with their children Sophie, 6, and Sam, 13, have received just 18mm of rain this year.

"We haven't had a huge amount of rain, so it is no good chasing rainbows," Damien said.

"We will just go with what we had planned at the start of the year."

The family started seeding at the end of last month after receiving 7mm of rain the day before.

Damien said that was not enough to classify as wet seeding but 1.5mm of follow-up rain could be enough to get the canola out of the ground.

"We had another 1.5mm last Thursday, which could be enough to germinate."

Damien sowed Tribune canola at a rate of 2.5kg per hectare, with 65kg of Agyield Extra and 20kg of a Potash blend.

He moved onto lupins last Friday with close to 10mm of moisture in the bank.

The farm received another 1.5mm on Monday night, which Damien said should help bring up his sown crops.

Damien sowed 160ha of Mandelup lupins by Tuesday and was hopeful they would germinate from recent rains.

Weekend storms brought just 1.5mm to the farm overnight on Friday, which left the Harrises wanting more.

Damien said the family was in a markedly different situation 12 months ago.

"This time last year we were seeding into wet soil - we had already had 250mm for the year," he said.

He described 2011 as the family's "best year by a long shot" as they averaged close to 4.5 tonnes per hectare on their wheat.

The family's canola program has increased by 130ha this season and their wheat crop has dropped by a similar amount.

Damien said the fact this shift tied in with high canola prices and low wheat prices was purely coincidental.

"Our canola has increased but that is purely because of rotation," he said.

"Our lupins are about the same as last year and our wheat has dropped back a bit."

He planned to start on wheat next week, sowing Wyalkatchem, Mace and a small area of new variety, Cobra.

A mid-season variety, Damien said Cobra was similar to Mace and Wyalkatchem, which both worked well on his farm.

"I'll sow about 15ha of Cobra, just to see what it is like," he said.

"I will probably sow that first, since it's such a small amount."

Damien said he could sow half the program dry, if necessary, but needed to get a knockdown on his weedier paddocks before seeding those.

"If we dry seed our wheat, it will be into lupin stubble because there is a lot better weed control in those paddocks," he said.

"I could do half the program dry if I had to but we are going on a bit of moisture now, which should hopefully bring up some weeds."

Fast facts *

_WHO: _Damien and Clara Harris

_WHAT: _ 990ha wheat, 500ha lupins and 250ha canola

_WHERE: _Binnu

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