Continuous cropping is run over nine properties in a 60km radius on central Yorke Peninsula. The properties are located from the east side of the Yorke Peninsula at Ardrossan to Maitland in the centre and through to Port Victoria on the west side of the peninsula. The cropping program consists of 40% wheat, 30% barley and 30% lentils.
Our focus is on growing malt barley, bread wheat and lentils for human consumption. The Yorke Peninsula’s cool, coastal climate is very mild in the spring which is ideal for producing high-quality grain.
We were one of the early adopters of combining GPS guidance with a reduced tillage system. Since adopting this approach in 1999 we have seen huge improvements in soil health and fertility. This practice has revolutionised farming, particularly in the lower rainfall area of Yorke Peninsula.
All of our machinery have Trimble guidance systems and we use yield mapping during harvest so we can use real-time data to further improve areas that are under performing. The Trimble guidance systems dramatically reduce operator fatigue and are an essential component within our sustainable production system.
Sustainable management of weeds has always been a high priority for our operation. During the early 2000s, we ran chaff carts for five seasons straight which reduced our weed seed banks dramatically and reduced our reliance on herbicide. In 2018, we fitted a seed terminator unit to one of our headers. After a few initial teething problems we are very happy with the results. Our aim is to work towards having our entire cropping program seed terminated, to keep our production system sustainable.
In 2019, we fitted a ProTrakker unit to coincide with updating our seeder. Traditionally our aim was to sow between last season’s seeding row to maximise our ability to sow in heavy stubbles. Recently we have been trailing sowing on, or near, the previous season’s sowing row, as we are getting great results in crop emergence off less moisture. This appears to be highly beneficial when we are dry seeding in our lower rainfall coastal properties.
Our paddock maps and records are updated in the field using Agworld on iPads.
We run a low disturbance seeding system which enables us to retain all crop residues which maximises our water use efficiency and protects the soil from wind and water erosion. We aim to inter row sow where possible. During sowing, the seeder runs 24 hours a day and we only shut it down either for a service or if it rains. We have four semi-tippers with seed and super units and a truck supplying the boom spray with water. It’s simple and efficient, and we can sow our entire program in four weeks. All of the seed for cereals is professionally cleaned and all of our legume seed is cleaned over a gravity-table.
Seeding commences annually on 15 April.
As part of our weed control program, we have fitted our Hardi Saritor with a 48 metre (165ft) boom and a 7000 litre tank. We fill this unit in the paddock with a water truck and use a totally sealed system to load all chemical into the sprayer to ensure the safety of our staff. We have a significant focus on fence line and roadside weed control to keep the cropping paddocks as weed free as possible.
When harvesting, our approach is to get stuck in and get it done. We operate two Claas headers fitted with Macdon FD75 fronts while two Cestari chaser bins along with four mother bins keep the grain away from the headers. During harvest, we operate two Western Star road-train outfits in addition to using local carriers. Most of our grain goes in to the export market so we aim to truck it direct to Port Giles about 80 kilometres away.
By windrowing barley it ripens earlier which enables us to commence harvest up to two weeks earlier. The windrowing process also reduces the potential risk of losses in the wind and we can operate the harvesters for longer hours without moisture problems. We aim to reap our barley in 10-14 days so we can move on to our lentil harvesting program.
Lentils are very fragile and must be harvested as soon as they are ripe. As they are used for the human consumption market, high levels of quality are vital. After harvesting the lentils we tackle the wheat harvesting, and we aim to produce high protein bread wheat.