Opportunity to reassess

Staying positive in dry times

Cropping
Ben Taylor in Seamer chickpeas planted the first week of June at Noonameena, Condamine.

Ben Taylor in Seamer chickpeas planted the first week of June at Noonameena, Condamine.

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The ongoing dry conditions may be taking a toll, but farmers like Ben Taylor, Culara Farming, Condamine, are remaining positive.

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The ongoing dry conditions may be taking a toll, but farmers are remaining positive and looking to take advantage of any opportunity it presents.

For the Taylor family, Culara Farming, Condamine, this has come in the form of laser leveling and deep ripping.

"It's times like this, really hard times, when it's the perfect time to reassess where you're at and what you're doing," Ben Taylor said.

"We're currently using the dry weather to our advantage, doing a laser leveling and deep ripping program.

"It's perfect weather to move dirt; one day it'll rain again and I'll have paddocks that will be ready to handle it.

"We've been leveling for a couple of months so that's kept us busy, and now we're pretty well going to pull up and start getting ready for harvest."

The Taylors were fortunate to get March rain that allowed them to plant a winter crop, and Mr Taylor said while it's well below average, he's thankful they'll be able to put a header in.

They began planting wheat in the third week of April and then held off for another week to plant Lancer, eventually getting 1600 hectares in the ground.

"We planted more Lancer than we would normally intend to, but the writing was on the wall for us not to continue our later varieties," Mr Taylor said.

"So we put the rest into Lancer, and it was a good decision because we didn't get any other planting opportunities.

"We've had 10mm of in-crop rainfall, so it's actually quite incredible really to see what it's doing; it's certainly finishing off in a big hurry."

Despite good planting conditions, Mr Taylor said they had been hoping to see another rainfall event that had been predicted in April.

"All we needed was another 5 to 10mm and I think we would have been right to get some secondary roots away, but at the moments it's very hit and miss as to the secondary root establishment," he said.

They then switched over to planting Seamer chickpeas in the first week of June.

"The chickpeas all go into standing stubble so the moisture was a lot nicer there and we probably got about 800 hectares of chickpeas in," Mr Taylor said.

A drive through the Western Downs makes clear how isolated and patchy any rainfall events have been.

"The region is a very mixed bag," Mr Taylor said.

"As an area this would be worse than last year. This is definitely our worst winter crop in a long time, and unfortunately for some, it's two bad years in a row.

"Summer can't come soon enough, same with the rainfall event."

A National Variety Trial within the Taylors' wheat crop clearly illustrates the difference between early-plant and mid-season varieties.

"Their early season doesn't look too bad, but their mid-season was planted on a whim and a prayer and it's going to be a failure," Mr Taylor said.

"Research data really takes a knock this year when it comes to variety trials."

Like many Queensland growers, the Taylors' winter crop comes on the back of a pretty ordinary summer.

Mr Taylor said they had an early sorghum crop that was "pretty well average", while their later sorghum crops were failures.

"That's three disappointing summers in a row that have been pretty tough," he said.

"We had above average sorghum yields in the early crop, but our later crops were horrible.

"With the pricing being good, it counteracts that, and it's just enough to keep the carrot out in front and keep us going.

"I suppose that's best case in these sort of scenarios, if you can put a header into the paddock and get something off it, then you've done well."

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