ESPERANCE farmer Mic Fels’ ongoing commitment to grassroots agricultural research and development (R&D) has paid dividends, with Mr Fels taking out a prestigious Syngenta Growth Award in the category of grower productivity.
Mr Fels, well known in WA ag circles both through his research and his role with WAFarmers as senior vice president of the grains section, was presented with the award, which includes a study tour to Europe next year, at a gala dinner in Sydney recently.
The judges were impressed by Mr Fels’ continued efforts to boost the productivity on his two properties at Esperance and 1000 kilometres away at Three Springs, south of Geraldton.
“Mic stood out due to his broad approach to boosting productivity. His engineering innovations, coupled with leading farming practices make him a unique asset to agriculture,” said one.
Mr Fels’ approach to farming centres on collecting data wherever it can be collected, so he can increase productivity while keeping input costs in check.
This devotion to data led to the decision to buy the land at Three Springs.
“It was based on the fact the rainfall is basically same as at Esperence but the land is only worth as quarter as much,” he said.
So far, the experiment is working, Mr Fels said in the third season of operating at Three Springs crop yields have doubled every year, which he attributes to the technical-based cropping system he is using.
Real-life necessity has been the inspiration for some of Mr Fels’ major innovations, such as the Unstacker, which allows better collection of grain stored temporarily on the ground.
The Unstacker features a cross auger system which reverses into a bunker before loading grain via a side auger into a truck.
He has also developed a range of farm apps, such as the popular iPaddockSpray which is now used by farmers across the nation in order to manage their spray records.
Agronomically, Mr Fels said the next challenge on his two properties, in 430-455mm annual rainfall zones, is managing winter waterlogging.
“Waterlogging can cut our water use efficiency from 16-17kg a hectare of wheat per millimetre of rain to 4kg/ha/mm in a wet year.
“Along with this, the wet years also allow ryegrass to thrive.”
However, Mr Fels sees the issue of excess water as an opportunity, saying if it could be converted to yield benefiting moisture rather than limiting production it could open up an extra 6-8 tonnes a hectare of yield in cereal crops.