Gambling on an early sorghum crop

Central Highlands summer crops looking for rain


Cropping
Russell Pukallus, Wyntoon, Arcturus, planted 220 hectares of MR Buster sorghum on November 6, hoping the gamble of an early crop would spread the risk.

Russell Pukallus, Wyntoon, Arcturus, planted 220 hectares of MR Buster sorghum on November 6, hoping the gamble of an early crop would spread the risk.

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Summer grain crops are few and far between in the Central Highlands district, but some growers have decided to take the punt and plant early.

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Summer grain crops are few and far between in the Central Highlands district, but some growers have decided to take the punt and plant early. 

Russell Pukallus, Wyntoon, Arcturus, planted 220 hectares of MR Buster sorghum on November 6, hoping the gamble would pay off.  

“We had pretty much a full profile when we started, and basically it's been nothing but heat and wind since,” he said.

“Normally we aim for about 40,000 plants at germination and we haven't gotten anywhere near that, but I think that's understandable with what we're facing.

“The plant establishment has been fairly severely affected by the heat and the wind that we've had, but I think there's still enough population left that if we receive a reasonable amount of rain, it'll go through to make an average crop.”

Mr Pukallus said the crop represents 25 per cent of their intended summer crop area, and hoped they’d get 75 millimetres of rain for Christmas. 

“We know it's probably the wrong time now, but who knows when it's the right time,” he said.

“We’ve got reasonable sub-soil moisture, so all we need is a good rain event and we’ll all be planting in full swing. 

“By putting it in early, we’ve spread the risk a bit; we’ve done it before, and done well out of it.”

The prospect of a tough summer season comes off the back of a profitable winter crop at Wyntoon. 

“We had barley, wheat and chickpea, and high prices made it a pretty good season,” Mr Pukallus said.

“Yield wise for the chickpeas, we've gone very close to averaging 1.2 tonne to the hectare on what we harvested, and barley was about the same.

“We had severe frosting in the chickpeas, so we cut 240ha and made hay out of it, which was a first for us and that turned out relatively profitable, so all in all the winter season was not too bad.”

Several other growers in the area have also taken a gamble on early crops, but for the most part, Central Highlands growers are waiting on Christmas rain before they can get a crop in.

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