No tractor electronics at planting time and half a paddock of lodged wheat did not stop the Thompson family at Kyabram from ending 2016 with a bin-busting crop.
Sam Thompson, who farms with his wife Danielle, brother Jake and his wife Sarah, and parents Glenn and Lois, said a battery problem disabled the electronics, forcing them to rely on eyesight rather than satellites.
“We were getting ready to sow in the first week of May when the electronics went, including GPS, so dad sowed it in the best straight line he could,” he said.
Perhaps the most significant setback occurred when heavy rain forced them to stop spreading growth regulator Moddus on their Cobra wheat.
“We used Moddus on our high production crops to reduce the amount of foliage and thicken the stalk. It was so wet down the tramlines, Jake only got half of it out. We would’ve averaged nine tonne if we had it on all of it.”
Despite this, the growers harvested 130ha of Cobra wheat in the last week of December 2016, which produced 8t/ha average, 13.6pc protein and H1 classification.
Their 40ha dryland crop of Trojan wheat also produced good results, finishing at 5.5t/ha average.
“It was a great year to grow wheat. It was cool during flowering and we used the pivot irrigators to finish it off,” he said.
“Sometimes if the head doesn’t fill, the seed sample can vary in colour and uniformity, but Cobra was the same colour and size all the way through.
“We’d drive 660m in the header and have a box full of grain.”
Mr Thompson said the weather was the deciding factor in their success, as Kyabram received its third highest rainfall in two decades, with 627mm recorded.
“By harvest we had 580mm, then I gave the crop another two 15mm irrigations.”
The family crops about 600ha in winter; mainly wheat, canola and oats, and in summer they grow corn, lucerne and sunflowers.
Premium lucerne is their main enterprise, which is sold domestically, and all three couples have their own acreage to crop.
Aside from Moddus, the other input that helped was extra nitrogen to chase higher protein levels.
“Being irrigated, I knew it would be lower in protein so I was pretty keen to boost that and aim for H2.
“At the flowering stage, I applied a final top dressing of 50kg/ha of nitrogen to boost protein, then it was irrigated.”
Mr Thompson said while the strategy carried an element of risk given the price of water and urea, the cool temperatures at flowering and plentiful irrigation available meant it was viable.
“I didn’t know it was going to get H1. Under irrigation you don’t expect to get H1 so this was an unexpected bonus.”
The grower, who contract harvests in the district, said he discovered Cobra after harvesting his agronomist Tim Anderson’s crop in 2014.
“I stripped Tim’s Cobra in 2014 and it was the best wheat that year, so I wanted to grow it too.”
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