Slow start prompts look at soil health

22 Jul, 2018 04:00 AM
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 Mr Parker is trialing loose application organic carbon as a way to increase water-holding capacity, although with the area renowned for strong winds, Mr Parker said he would be happy to try the new pellet version which can be placed underground.
Mr Parker is trialing loose application organic carbon as a way to increase water-holding capacity, although with the area renowned for strong winds, Mr Parker said he would be happy to try the new pellet version which can be placed underground.

A RARE bad start to the season has hit Gairdner farmer Damon Parker pretty hard.

With only 80 millimetres recorded for the year Mr Parker said he would be selling 1000 breeding Dorpers and their lambs sooner rather than later.

“I have just marked 700 lambs the other day off the table,” Mr Parker said.

“My pastures haven’t come up enough to let them graze it and that’s why I am looking to sell them all.”

Mr Parker said it would be another five weeks until he could start grazing the pastures.

“The plan was to start grazing the pastures and run them through the crops that are up, which is what I normally do, but the crops are still going into the ground,” he said.

“I would be better off selling the sheep and buying them back, instead of buying enough feed to try and keep them alive.”

Mr Parker said his problem would be next summer when there was no cover on his paddocks.

“If I have grazed it down that hard to try and keep my sheep going through, then my paddocks will blow all summer and there is no future in that,” he said.

Some farmers in the area have bought in hay from Wongan Hills, with others buying lupins from 900 kilometres away which Mr Parker said was a very expensive venture.

Not only was Mr Parker looking at selling stock, he said his crops were also in desperate need of water.

On the back of solid rainfall figures across the State, including more than 80 millimetres at Badgingarra, he said, “I would give my left arm to have 80mm in one week”.

“I have had 80mm for the year and I haven’t had anything over 10mm.”

Everything else has been 2mm or 5mm with a howling wind about 60km/hour.

“So I have 2mm of rain on the record but it has dried out in no time,” he said.

Reflecting on better years he has had in the past, Mr Parker said farming was a gamble and if it was easy then more people would be doing it.

“Last year we had a dry winter but spring was very kind to us.

“We can have a dry winter here all the time, but as long as we get a soft spring we will be alright.”

Mr Parker said when travelling through Green Range and out to the South Stirlings, the season was not shaping up well.

“It has been a long time since I have seen a season like this,” he said.

“It might be a one in every hundred year event, but we do get dry starts like this down here which is unfortunate.”

One of Mr Parker’s neighbours, who has been in the area since 1969, said the lowest rainfall he ever had was 150mm for the year.

“There was also another year where they had 40mm up until November then they received 270mm one weekend and 200mm the next which made the records look good, but they still grew nothing,” Mr Parker said.

“So it does happen here, just not as often as some areas in WA.”

Fortunately Mr Parker said he didn’t have any crop in when the winds first blew.

“I had been waiting for rain before I started seeding, but now I have just sort of started to trickle along,” he said.

“I have about 450ha to go, which is only four days work but it might take me four weeks, I am in no rush.”

It might seem late to still be seeding for many areas but Mr Parker said not for his patch.

“Everyone says it’s late but it isn’t – over the years we have just started seeding earlier and earlier,” he said.

In the past Mr Parker has continued seeding into August, but that was because the paddocks were too wet.”

Most of what has already been seeded is out of the ground after being dormant for a few weeks.

“I started sowing pastures around Anzac Day, but I held off on my proper crop,” he said.

Mr Parker has given up on canola.

“All my neighbours are wondering why they put canola in now because it all blew away, got cut out by the wind and now they are re-seeding it.

“Oats that have been in the longest got cut off the other week and that was up at two-leaf and it’s only just coming back up green now.”

This week the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting more strong winds to hit the area.

“The closer the front gets they dial the wind up and the forecasted rain goes down, but there is not much we can do about that,” Mr Parker said.

To combat the dry conditions he has agreed to a trial with Carbon Ag Solutions.

For the past five years Mr Parker has been applying liquid carbon through the bar at seeding time, as well as liquid calcium and liquid traces.

“I have had a thing for the carbon cycle for a long time now and it’s really helpful for the beach sand I try to grow a crop on,” he said.

“If you don’t keep looking at new products then you go stale.

“If I can increase the soil health all in one pass, with the new pellet version offered by Carbon Ag Solutions when I seed and cut out a heap of labour and equipment, then that’s the way to do it,” he said.

“My neighbour out the back has buried my fence 60 centimetres under and all his lime has ended up on my paddock.”

“I started going to liquids because I wanted it in the grow zone where I could use it,” he said.

“They say you spread lime sand and you get a response in five or six years when it starts to break down, but I want it this year when I spend the money.”

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