Dulacca grain grower Stephen Gibson, Fairleigh, is no stranger to the testing times of the widespread dry conditions.
In 2018, its been a mixed bag for the Gibson family with barley yielding well, but patchy rain and severe frost events have meant a real difference in performance between early and late plant crops.
Looking for a wheat variety with higher yield abilities, the Gibsons have planted 300 hectares of Borlaug wheat in its first commercial year.
Mr Gibson was one of several farmers to plant Borlaug this year, with 2500ha going in across an area spanning from Moree in the south to central Queensland in the north.
“There’s a group of four farmers who are interested in high-yielding feed wheat for the northern region, and this variety has been in cage trials for quite a few years with impressive results,” Mr Gibson said.
“A few thousand hectares has been planted, and some was cut for hay, a little bit got frosted, and some was dry planted and didn’t receive enough rain to join the moisture up, but the crops that are in look quite good and we’ve had positive feedback.”
For the 300ha at the Gibson’s Ludlow property, it’s been a very trying season.
Planting into chickpea stubble on May 24 at 50 kilograms to the hectare with 20kg of monoammonium phosphate (MAP) fertiliser, Mr Gibson said he went down five inches in search of moisture.
“It’s some of the deepest I've ever planted wheat and I was a bit worried how it would come up,” he said.
“It’s been a pretty cold, unusual year with the weather changing form hot to cold, then hot and cold, but the Borlaug has handled it quite well.
“We were just lucky with frost, we had quite a lot of frost and got as low as minus eight this year, but I think the wheat has just had that much frost on it, it's sort of hardened.
“We were lucky to miss the flowering period with frost - if it was flowering it may have been a different story.”
Despite the region receiving significant rainfall in February, the crop has made it through with just 47mm of in-crop rain, but battled with heavy pest pressure.
“The biggest problem we’ve faced this year has been pests, roos, pigs, brolgas, emus,and mice have all been an issue, but it’s not over yet,” Mr Gibson said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be harvesting it the second week of October.
“In the trials we’ve done it always fills good grain, so I’d hope for 2.5t/ha, or maybe a little better.”
In addition to 1000 hecatres of early barley which yielded well, and 2500ha of wheat which has seen mixed results, the Gibson family also has 1300ha of chickpeas planted.
Mr Gibson said there had been large performance differences between the Kyabra and Seamer varieties.
“Kyabra's our main variety and while it's disease package is lower, it yields about 15 per cent higher than any other variety, so we're happy to work around that with rotations and more crop spraying just for that yield,” he said.
“The Seamer just doesn't seem suited to this environment with frost, and I think Kyabras got better performance with subsoil constraints.”
Despite almost 40pc of the chickpea crop being damaged by frost this season, Mr Gibson said they were happy with how the crop was progressing.
“We had decent moisture under it so it's still podded more and put more flowers on it, and I'm still hopeful of 1.5t/ha which is great,” he said.
Mr Gibson said despite the tough season, some crops were performing well while others were struggling.
“A bit of it is to do with the patchiness of the rain,” he said.
“We've got nine farms and it's just so patchy, even from one end of a property to the other.
“Even though the rain has been average, with the commodity prices the way they are, it's saved our bacon.
“We live in an interesting time as far as grain prices go, it's just being able to grow it.”