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DBS shines in Lake King

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Lake King farm manager Jorg Brinkman says two DBS bars and two Multistreams can accomplish a 10,000ha program in five or six weeks if conditions are good.

Lake King farm manager Jorg Brinkman says two DBS bars and two Multistreams can accomplish a 10,000ha program in five or six weeks if conditions are good.

By KEN WILSON HERE’S a serious question. If you were head of a global superannuation fund, would you buy a farm in WA where the annual average rainfall was only 350mm, with growing season rainfall of 240mm? Well, the US-based Westchester Group is doing just that and it’s a huge vote of confidence for WA’s dryland farmers and their ability to take advantage of new technology. The company bought two properties (10,000ha arable) at Lake King from two local farmers and leased it to Aus Grain Farming. The farm is managed by Jorg Brinkmann, who has worked as the farm manager for 18 years after stints at Katanning, Varley and Dumbleyung, in a career that has always involved farming. My first serious question to him, after touring the property and taking a picture of the rabbit proof fence that skirts the farm’s eastern boundary, was, ‘How do you make this work out here given the limited rainfall?’ The obvious answer is good management but Jorg is quick to point to improving technology, a diverse rotation which includes lupins and canola, strict weed seed management strategies at harvest and new crop varieties. These are the main drivers of production on mainly gravelly sandplain soils - considered by early pioneers as good cropping country. “With today’s cost pressures, you’d struggle out here without the available technology,” Jorg said. “We’re averaging 2.33t/ha for wheat, 2.94t/ha for barley, 1.5t/ha for canola (average oil 46-48) and lupins 1.4t/ha. “In the future, when we get more balanced soil fertility, lifting our wheat average towards 3t/ha is quite possible. “But for the rainfall we get, you wouldn’t come close to those figures without absolute focus on timeliness in all our operations and using the machinery technology we have.” Peak into the machinery sheds and a lot of technology is revealed: two 18.2m (60ft) DBS precision seeders; two 19,000 litre capacity variable rate-ready Multistreams; one 36m (120ft) Beverley HydraBoom boomsprayer; one 36m John Deere self-propelled 4045 boomsprayer; two John Deere 9530 4WD tractors, two John Deere 8345R FWA tractors, a 12t Marshall variable rate-ready spreader, two 30 tonne chaser bins and three John Deere S680 combine harvesters each towing a chaff cart. The machinery provides a fairly accurate picture of Jorg’s management plan, which also embraces agronomy with Google earth maps, paddock mapping and satellite guidance – the latter is especially helpful when returning to a paddock to cut out patches, for example, applying potash on identified areas from software maps. Naturally, spraying kicks off the farm cropping program - and when I visited Jorg, he had already completed two programs off the back of 140mm of thunderstorm activity in December and January. A further 60mm of rain was recorded over the Easter weekend which brought the first germinations of winter weeds and the opportunity for double knock spraying before seeding. “Moisture conservation is critical,” he said. “We need as much moisture as we can get at seeding, especially sowing canola in mid-April. “I’d rather sow into moisture and avoid any wet-dry scenarios but to an extent we can overcome that with the DBS because we can chase the moisture and bring it up to the seedbed – if we know we’ve got moisture down there. “Like this year, we would probably only need 5-10mm to connect with what subsoil moisture we’ve already got from the summer rain events.” And Jorg emphasises how critical correct seed placement becomes in such a low rainfall environment. “You don’t want to be wasting moisture with poor seed placement,” he said. “It’s essential we have a hydraulic tine machine like the DBS because the tine stays in the ground and you’re putting the seed exactly where you want it. “In the past, with the spring tine seeding bar we had, it only had a breakout of 350kg and the tine would jump out and seed would be flicked all over the place. “And the other important aspect is that getting good underseed cultivation can be pivotal to crops hanging on in a tight finish.” Having two DBS bars with 18.2m working widths also means if the season is getting late, the 10,000ha program can be accomplished in five or six weeks. “Our optimum sowing window is mid-April to the end of May,” Jorg said. “If we have moisture at the start we’ll sow canola and lupins around the clock before getting into barley and wheat and going back to 14-15 hour shifts to manage spraying operations and labour. “This also spreads the cereals out a little for frost management.” And Jorg gives a big tick to tick technology changes with the sprayers too. Jorg employs the Airmatic air induction system on one of the sprayers. This gives the operator control of the droplet size needed for the prevailing conditions from the cab. The Airmatic system will allow operators to choose a droplet size from very fine through to extra coarse at the touch of a button. The chosen droplet size will be maintained regardless of water rate or speed travelled. Published in Farm Weekly April 21, 2016. Photo courtesy Farm Weekly.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016