COMPETITIVE spirits were high last week as the 16 teams involved in the Dirt to $ challenge showcased the progress of their canola crops at the Southern Dirt Techspo, Katanning.
The Dirt to $ cropping challenge runs for three years, testing the agronomic and decision-making skills of competing teams who battle it out to claim victory in each category.
Each year awards are given to the team with the most profitable and highest-yielding crops, with top prize going to the group with the greatest cumulative total gross margin over the challenge.
Each team has six replicated plots at the Katanning site which they keep over the three years, with all yield and profits calculated on the basis of a 50 hectare paddock.
The competition was launched in March following the success of the inaugural competition in Kojonup from 2013-2015.
This year’s canola is the first crop of the competition, with barley and wheat next in the rotation.
With each canola plot planted on the same day, it’s up to individual teams to set themselves apart through their choice of crop variety, sowing rate and time, application of fertiliser, lime and herbicide and grain marketing decisions.
Competing plots of varying heights and densities were lined up against one another at Techspo – making it easy for visitors to compare how each crop was faring and which teams were in the running to claim this season’s bragging rights.
The CSBP team was onsite at Techspo and happy with the progress of its Bonito crop.
CSBP agronomist Jaap Pienaar said although the CSBP canola plot had not grown as high or as dense as others, it was still in the running to win the most profitable crop category.
He said the team had adjusted its decisions and expectations as the season unfolded to ensure profits remained high and the crop was given the best possible chance.
“What we set out to do was to make sure that we do what people do around here, so we decided as our goal to go for the most profitable crop and then also the overall gross margin, we were not interested so much in high yields,” Mr Pienaar said.
“We gathered as much information as possible and then we used our CSBP technology to make those decisions, the two main drivers are NUlogic Soil Analysis and NUlogic Plant Analysis.
“We were aiming for 1.8 tonne per hectare crop but we readjusted fertilisers down due to the average start to the season and we’re aiming for 1.5t/ha.”
The Bayer team chose Triazine tolerant canola variety InVigor T4510 which was proving a good decision, according to Bayer customer advisory representative Craig White.
Mr White said the variety had fared better than several others chosen in the challenge, which had given the team a competitive edge.
He said the Bayer team was enjoying the learning experience of the challenge.
“It’s about keeping up the pace, that’s what growers have to do and it’s the real world and that’s what’s great about the challenge, it makes you think about all of the elements not just your specific little piece,” Mr White said.
“People seem to take it in the right spirit of learning and it’s not over until it’s in the bin.”
Results for the first year of the competition will be collaborated after harvest, with the winners announced early next year.