Earliest start for Calingiri farmer

30 Apr, 2003 10:00 PM

AARON Edmonds got straight off the plane from New Zealand, Europe and USA from the preliminary part of his Nuffield scholarship and on to the tractor on April 17 to start the family's 1750ha cropping program.

He farms with his parents Charlie and Margaret, east of Calingiri.

"It's the earliest we have ever got going, but it has been a text book start to the season - the canola was up in four days,"he said.

"With 4.5 inches of rain since February, we will keep going regardless of rain and perhaps hold back to avoid the frost window for wheat," he said.

The 2003 program includes 30pc wheat (Janz, Calingiri and Carnamah); 30pc Mundah barley; 15pc Clearfield and TT canola and 15pc lupins, which are on 10" spacings for weed control.

The Edmonds secured their chemical early but have altered their 2003 cropping mix in view of the stripe rust situation last year.

"We increased the barley program at the expense of wheat and canola and have used Reel as a seed dressing and budgeted on some foliar fungicide later in the year," Aaron said.

"We will be bulking up on rust resistant wheat varieties for 2004."

No-till farmers for six years and 100pc croppers for four years, Aaron said: "our weed situation now is better than when we had sheep.

"We have not burnt any stubble this year and are hoping that full stubble retention will increase soil biota and in time, that the beneficials will counter rhizoctonia and root lesion nematode."

It is with some reluctance that Aaron Edmonds includes lupins at all in his cropping program - because they are unprofitable, but in terms of crop topping, they are an important tool.

Having just returned from USA, he said: "the most significant risk to profitable and sustainable grain production in Australia is the fact that we are without a profitable legume in the rotation."

"This will become even more pronounced if energy costs increase, taking nitrogenous fertiliser prices with them, which are directly related to the value of gas and oil.

Aaron sees biotechnology as an essential tool for the future, allowing plants to be 'tweaked' to suit the local environment.

He has a vision of what the technology could provide - a perennial grain capable of fixing nitrogen, which has triple rust resistance and resistance to glyphosate and glufosinate.

"This will give us our next major leap in production, allowing us to plant niche areas on the lower and mid slopes that are now marginal for cropping, using rain where it falls and reducing recharge.

"Sowing costs would be reduced with a perennial and the deeper root system would bring with it fertiliser use efficiencies."

Particularly interested in the use of biotechnology in the biological fixation of nitrogen by bacteria, Aaron said: "GM research in Europe seems to have taken this focus and because the work concerns the roots, there is no perceived food safety risks."

Aaron will be returning to India as part of his Nuffield scholarship to look at the bacteria azospirillum, which is able to fix small quantities of nitrogen in non-legumes.

GM technology is being used to enhance the levels of N-fixation.

He is also looking at carbon sequestration (carbon credits) on cropping systems in USA.



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