To sow or not to sow

To sow or not to sow

From a frosty May to possible flooding in June, East Gippsland is looking like experiencing the first wet winter in some years. 
On Monday, the Elders weather app was predicting 40-80 millimetres of rain for today and another 20-40mm on Thursday, while the Bureau of Meteorology predicted the East Gippsland district had a near 100pc chance of rain Wednesday, with heavy falls possible, snow falling above 900 metres and winds west to southwesterly at 30 to 45 kilonetres an hour.
Bengworden farmer and contractor, Toby Caithness was frantically trying to get 100 hectares of canola in the ground, as he said canola didn’t seem to burst and split like wheat and barley seed with a large rain event.
“It’s still risky but we’ll be right if we get sunshine during the day,” Mr Caithness said.
“Canola is less risky than cereals, we’ve found about a third of wheat or barley will burst.
“If the forecast eventuates and we get 50 to 80mm, it’ll be another month before we can get any gear back on the paddocks to sow.
“If we had sown wheat and barley a month ago it would probably yield a tonne to the hectare more but it’s just the way the year went.
“Anything that went in the ground before that first lot of rain in
March will have root mass and leaf on top and will manage with more moisture.
“I’ve seen there’s a bit of wind predicted and we usually don’t get as much when there’s
wind. Even if we get
half what’s predicted it’ll be plenty.
“We haven’t had a wet winter and flood for a while so we’re probably due for it.”
He said as far as insects and disease issues went it had been a very easy year, though they may have to resort to spreading fertiliser and nutrients by plane if the moisture kept up.
Over near Lindenow South, Dave Caldwell, Coonmoor Pastoral, was also in the tractor on Monday, trying to finish sowing barley and oats for whole-crop silage.
“Effectively our soil moisture profile is full now ” got 15mm there’ll be water lying around,” Mr Caldwell said.
“It literally only dried out enough about 10 days ago.”
Mr Caldwell said they had decided to drop out 60ha from planting as at least one area would become submerged, preferring to wait and plant an early spring crop of millet, rape or sorghum.
At Coonmoor, the decision has been made to sow virtually at the surface, instead of 25-30mm deep.
“We’ve halved our fertiliser rate as well because in theory with a large rain event it will leach enough to get the crop established and we’ll add more nutrient later.
The Agriculture Victoria weather station situated at Coonmoor has up to date information online and according to its statistics, the soil moisture level is currently at 100 per cent down to 60 centimetres, 98pc at 70cm and 96pc at 80cm.  
It also recorded a year-to-date rainfall of 288.4mm, with 101.4mm falling in March, and a further 88.6mm in May.
“I’ll be extremely excited if the weather forecasters are inaccurate,” Mr Caldwell said.
“Usually we’re cursing them being inaccurate. “It won’t take much for the water to run here.”

IMAGE: Predicted heavy rain had cropping farmers making choices about whether to plant or hold off this week. This paddock, owned by Toby Caithness, Bengworden, has spring wheat coming through, despite a few sections that were waterlogged from the spate of rain last month. (PS)


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