Early seeding pays off

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

It's time to hang up the boots and crack open the champagne for Bruce Rock farmers Darren and Tracy Kilminster and their children Bella, Charlie and Ruby.

With harvest all wrapped up at the weekend, the Kilminsters are ready to begin the Christmas celebrations after what has been almost two months spent taking off the crop.

Mr Kilminster said with a growing season rainfall of 225mm he was happy with an average result, particularly after losing almost 30 per cent yield on at least 500ha of Mace wheat to frost.

"It was certainly a better result than last year where we only had 195mm for the growing season, and I think the overall average yields reflected that extra rainfall," he said.

The Kilminsters began seeding canola on April 10 after receiving 35mm of rain in late March.

"This year we really saw the difference between the early-sown crops, which yielded well, and any crops seeded after the May 17 rainfall event," he said.

"The crops just didn't jump out of the ground after that time and so the message seems to be pretty clear about the importance of early-seeding strategies."

Mr Kilminster said the paddock next to the frosted area averaged 2.5 t/ha, but the frosted crop only went 1.3 t/ha.

"That was really disappointing but it didn't end up being as bad as I had originally thought," he said.

This year the Kilminsters planted 2000ha to Mace, 900ha to triazene-tolerant canola and 600ha to La Trobe barley.

Mr Kilminster said while the barley all went to feed, it averaged 2 t/ha. "That's really good for the area and we will be planting more next year with the aim of achieving malt grade," he said.

Like most other farm businesses throughout the central and eastern Wheatbelt, the lack of rain in September meant a quick and dry finish for the crops.

"We received only 8mm for September, and the crops really needed another 10 or 15mm to have any impact," he said.

Alongside the cropping operation, the Kilminsters also run 2000 breeding ewes and plant oats for feed and hay over an additional 1300ha.

Mr Kilminster said he had trialled export hay over a small plot but didn't believe it would be economical in the long term.

"I wanted to test it out and see how hay would work, but given that we have to use contractors the costs are really too high to make it work," he said.

Mr Kilminster said lupins would be included in the rotation next year.

_"I have been out of the lupin market for about 10 years, but it suits the rotation next year and allows me to put in another break crop that I can crop top with a different chemical group such as paraquat," he said. _

And while the harvester is ready to be put away, the sprayer will be up and running in the next few days.

"Also, we'll be putting out about 500 tonne of lime soon, so there is still work to be done," Mr Kilminster said.

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