Paddock precision pays off at Gnowangerup

27 Apr, 2012 10:22 AM
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Gavin Beeck has extensively analysed the structure and fertility of every paddock on his family's farm to address crop production constraints.
Gavin Beeck has extensively analysed the structure and fertility of every paddock on his family's farm to address crop production constraints.

PRECISION lime, gypsum and fertiliser application is helping Gavin Beeck address costly production constraints on his family’s Gnowangerup property in Western Australia’s Great Southern region.

His direction of inputs to where they are needed has been assisted by an extensive monitoring program based on surface and subsurface soil testing.

Details of Mr Beeck’s targeted approach to overcoming crop constraints such as acidity are outlined in the latest western edition of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) magazine Ground Cover.

Mr Beeck, 31, who runs a 6257ha property with his wife Jodie and parents Ron and Paula, discovered 12 years ago that soil acidity was hampering crop production on the property, with pH levels as low as 4.6.

To address this, lime was initially blanketed across paddocks at 1.5 tonnes per hectare.

But in 2002, Mr Beeck switched to variable rate lime application to better direct input rates to the unique needs of each soil type, with rates ranging from 1t/ha to 3t/ha.

To help determine what rates to apply, he engaged agronomy firm Precision Agronomics Australia to conduct electromagnetic and radiometric surveys.

The results helped to better understand constraints at depth and the data is also used each year to develop application maps for starter fertiliser.

Mr Beeck said soil pH levels were now at an acceptable level, averaging 5.3.

He encouraged other growers to make the move to precision agriculture by putting variable rate equipment on the spreader.

“It cost me $4500 but led to huge cost savings in lime alone,” Mr Beeck said.

With acidity constraints addressed, he has turned his attention to ameliorating subsoil sodicity with gypsum rates ranging from 0.5t/ha to 5t/ha.

Mr Beeck is also adding dolomite on parts of paddocks where magnesium is low.

For nutrient management, he has moved to using liquid fertilisers that are injected at sowing and later foliar-applied.

In 2010 and 2011 he compared foliar phosphate applied throughout the season against granular phosphate applied at seeding.

Where foliar phosphate was used, it resulted in fewer dollars spent.

Yields were equally as good and better in some paddocks.

The May/June edition of Ground Cover will be mailed to growers in late April.

Some of the many other stories featured in the western edition of the magazine include research into what makes WA’s top-performing growers more profitable when compared with other WA growers; and outcomes from a comprehensive survey of herbicide resistance in the WA grainbelt.

Growers can sign up for Ground Cover or download articles via the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/groundcover

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