Due to the prevailing dry summer conditions, brothers Ian and David Ladner of Wolonga Farming Company, planted two sorghum crops and a mung bean crop last year.
The brothers farm in partnership with their mother Shirley and respective wives Margot and Kylie, over the 1,619 hectares of self-mulching black soil plains near Cecil Plains.
In October, after receiving marginal rain, they planted 550ha of Buster, Taurus and Bazley sorghum varieties.
Due to a lack of subsoil moisture, planting was slightly deeper than usual.
Then, following a big rain event just before Christmas when between 125 to 225 millimetres of rain was received, they planted more sorghum and mung beans in the new year.
David said as they hadn't previously planted a winter crop due to lack of rain, they had extra country available for planting.
"We planted another 240ha of sorghum, and 420ha of Crystal and Jade mung bean varieties," he said.
And while their October planting received in-crop rain prior to Christmas, the later planting of sorghum received very little rain, and the mung beans didn't receive any rainfall.
With the harvest now behind them, both Ian and David are satisfied with their returns.
"The sorghum averaged 3.2 tonne to the hectare, and we are more than happy with that result considering the minimal rain received and the hot conditions that prevailed during the growing period," David said.
Ready to plant when it rains
Ian and David Ladner were happy they made the decision to forward sell their sorghum and mung bean crop.
"We had forward sold some sorghum to Network Grains at $300/tonne, and the balance sold for between $300 to $350/tonne," David said
The Ladners also forward sold their 420ha mung bean crop to PB Agrifoods.
"We locked in a forward hectare contract from $1000 to $1300/tonne," he said.
In what can only be described as a tough growing year their mung bean crop returned 1.1 tonne/ha, which was a pleasing result.
"We've had some dry periods over the past years but the last two winters have been exceptionally dry," he said.
The Ladners have 1000ha ready for winter plantings of barley, wheat and chick pea once it rains.
The country has been fertilised applying 80 kilograms of Urea per hectare, plus a blend of Starter Z, Gran Am and Murate of Potash, all applied pre-planting.
"When it rains we will plant barley first, followed by wheat and chick peas," David said.
"The weather can be your best friend and your worse enemy - and we respect both."
Ideally, should the rain eventuate over the next couple of months, the brothers will look to a June/July plant, with planting no later than mid August.
Ian and David work closely with their agronomists, Matthew Holding and Liz Lobsey from Meteora Agronomic Consulting, and value their advice.
"Matt has a computer program called Nutri Bank," David said.
"Our crop data has been fed into this program over many years and from this information Matt advises us what our crops need in terms of nutrients.
"We strongly believe in rotational cropping and looking after our soil as it gives us quality and yield even in a dry year."
When possible, the Ladners try to plant their summer crops into fallow ground, while winter crops are planted into standing sorghum stubble.