When: Tuesday 19th September Where: "Tiquito" (Dhuragoon) & "Northdale" (Moulamein) Twenty one people attended the WMLIG/ Moulamein Cropping Group combined field day, showcasing local trials around the Moulamein district. Damian Jones (Irrigated Cropping Council) kicked off the day with 2016-17 trial results for irrigated pulses at both the Kerang and Moulamein sites. "2016 was the first year we had a go at growing lentils and chickpeas, as you know it was a very wet year and most of the plants suffered from waterlogging. So really this year is our first real crack at successfully growing these legumes on heavy ground and fingers crossed, they are still fairly healthy." He went on to describe the trial aims; which included the assessment of waterlogging tolerance in varieties, differing irrigation techniques (overhead irrigation, flood irrigation, beds & subsurface drip) and optimal timings of fungicide application.
Damian then moved over to the Durum wheat trial and gave some background information on site selection. "We have been growing Durums in Kerang for a couple of years now. The key is to maintain protein levels of 13%, otherwise it's just feed grain. In our experience, using a legume stubble is a good way to do that." He also explained that the market for Durum wheat can also be tricky, prices fluctuate depending on supply and can go from $600 back to $300 quickly. An important consideration is the proximity of your farm to a milling company, the closest currently is in South Australia. Although this can be an issue, he encouraged growers to look further into marketing opportunities in the future. The focus of the ICC 'Irrigated Durum Trial' is to test different products and fertiliser rates to find the best way to consistently achieve 13% protein in Durum grain.
After Damian's presentations, attendees moved to the soil moisture monitor site where Alleena Burger (Moulamein Cropping Group ) compared brands of moisture monitoring equipment. "There are a lot of options to monitor your soil moisture content these days, you can have something to read in the paddock, to download onto your computer or even access remotely via the internet." Referring to the handout she gave to attendee, Alleena explained how to read each graph from the moisture monitors and what the recommended depths of data loggers were: "We usually try and have a couple at 5cm, 15cm and 30cm in a wheat crop so that you can see where the roots are drawing water". She suggested that her personal preference was the 'Plexus' system.
Laura Kaylock (MCG/WMLIG) followed Alleena's presentation with an overview of the 'Improving Structure in Sodic Soils' trial. In this, six treatments were applied to a mildly sodic rice bay: compost, manure with and without stubble, mulched stubble, gypsum and a control. Using comparisons of establishment, yield and the paddock cut and fill map, she explained that the gypsum treatment had resulted in the best growing conditions for the plant and hence higher yield. She cautioned that "there was a lot of paddock variation within this trial. The yield map still mirrors the cut and fill map pretty closely, this suggests that treatments have not strongly influenced yield overall". She suggested that it could take up to 3-5 years to see any changes from the treatments.
After lunch presentations were held at Northdale, where the Mid-row Banding Nitrogen trial is being conducted. Leigh Vial (Deakin University) started his talk with a description of the nitrogen cycle and explained why this was important to the banding trial. "When Urea is placed in a concentrated band it forms a toxic environment to the soil bacteria which would usually break down fertiliser into a plant available form. So if you are applying that fertiliser at sowing, our research has shown it will take 10 weeks for the plants to start accessing". Leigh continued "the bacteria can only break down this fertiliser slowly so most of the nitrogen stays in a form which is safe from waterlogging and volatilisation, our previous results suggest that banding nitrogen is just as efficient as topdressing in a good season". A plot walk followed, with the banded and early topdressing treatments standing out starkly against the control treatments.
Sam North (NSW DPI) summed up the day with a discussion of yield constraints in the Western Murray and management considerations in irrigation layouts. Surprisingly, he suggested that in some years farmers were reaching their estimated yield potential in the region. "Yield potential changes from year to year based on sunlight and temperature, it can range from 7-9t/ha based on the growing season". He also outlined the importance of good irrigation layout and scheduling irrigations using soil moisture monitors. As part of his work the NSW DPI and partners have been creating guides on how to minimise yield constraints, improve layout and reduce paddock variation. One key message displayed on these guides was when to irrigated high yielding wheat. Sam described the critical drought period as between when awns first appear through to milky dough stage in grains. Overall he described it as an economic consideration rather than an agronomic suggestion, inputs should be planned to be appropriate for the yield potential of the paddock.
WMLIG & MCG would like to thank Michael Gorey and Leigh Vial for the use of their properties for the field day, as well as the Barham Bakery and the Wattle Café for their catering. This event was made possible through funding from the GRDC, Murray Irrigation Limited and the Murray LLS through the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.