A GAIN of about $60 a hectare across last season's canola and wheat crops has Carl Moltoni, Yathroo, contemplating using a seeding fertiliser treatment again this year.
A distinct shadow line across a paddock cast by taller canola over adjacent shorter canola, reported when Farm Weekly visited Mr Moltoni at the start of harvest in November, translated into measured yield increases of between 90 and 320 kilograms a hectare.
He has run a cropping and sheep enterprises on Scenic Park, a predominantly yellow sand plain soil, with his father Andrea since 1964.
Last season Mr Moltoni conducted his own unofficial test of Basis biochemical fertiliser catalyst produced by Agricen Australia and purchased through Landmark Moora.
He used a Basis-treated granular fertiliser on half of his canola, wheat, barley and lupins program and the same fertiliser, but untreated, on the other half.
Mr Moltoni harvested and delivered the with-Basis and without-Basis halves of his wheat and canola crops separately to quantify yield differences and to establish return-on-investment values.
His barley and lupins were harvested and stored on farm - the barley is sold but not due to be delivered until later in the year - so there is no accurate data on yield improvement for those crops, but canola and wheat were weighted and tested on delivery to CBH.
Claimed to improve plant performance by increasing nutrient availability from granular fertilisers and the soil, Basis was auger sprayed at a rate of four litres to the tonne on half of the 148 tonnes of K-Till Extra Plus fertiliser Mr Moltoni applied last year.
The potassium-maximising fertiliser, with and without Basis in equal proportion, was applied by air seeder at rates of 80 kilograms per hectare for canola and 95kg/ha for wheat during sowing across his 900ha Calingiri, Zen and Mace wheat and 350ha TT Bonito canola program.
According to data compiled by Landmark from Mr Moltoni's test results, canola yield increases of 170kg/ha and 90kg/ha were recorded in two paddocks.
One paddock produced 1.91t/ha in the untreated area and 2.08t/ha in the treated area and the second paddock 1.85t/ha untreated compared to 1.94t/ha treated.
The protein increase between untreated and treated cropping areas was 0.6 per cent - 17.9 to 18.5pc - in the first paddock and 0.8pc - 17.5 to 18.3pc - in the second.
Oil content in the first paddock was 48.6 per cent in the untreated area and 46.9pc in the treated area, a drop of 1.7pc, but was unchanged at 48.9pc in both areas of the second paddock.
Assuming a $550/t price for canola, deducting $8/ha for the Basis and adjusting for oil bonus, a $65.58/ha gain in the first paddock and a $46.62/ha gain in the second paddock was calculated by Landmark.
Wheat yield improved 320kg/ha - from 2.86 to 3.18t/ha - and protein increased 0.28pc - from 9.92 to 10.2pc - across untreated area compared to treated area.
Hectolitre weight eased slightly from 82.63kg to 82.14kg and the level of screenings was down 0.2pc - 1.29 to 1.09pc
Calculated on an assumed price of $245 a tonne less $9.50/ha for Basis, a gain of $68.90/ha was recorded.
"I'm very happy with the results - we averaged 1.96 tonnes a hectare across the whole farm and that includes some frost issues we had in low-lying areas," Mr Moltoni said.
"I haven't had the chance to sit down and study the figures yet but I'm contemplating doing the whole program with it (Basis) this season.
"It definitely made a difference, the crops where we treated the fertiliser were first out of the ground, they got away better, definitely.
"In some paddocks you could actually see a difference in places, but I wouldn't call my results conclusive just yet.
"There was some variation (in yield) from one end of a paddock to the other and about 50 tonnes of wheat was frosted.
"I'm not sure whether the Basis helped us get more from the crops that had frost on them.
"It was also a really good season last year so we were expecting better yields generally.
"I'd like to see the results from the same trial, but after two or three more normal seasons."
Apart from increased yield and indicated financial gain per hectare, Mr Moltoni said he also had to consider logistical aspects in deciding whether to use Basis in this season's cropping program.
"Last year I had bulk fertiliser sitting there, this year I might be bringing it in as I need it which would make the logistics of treating it more complicated.
"You also have to allow for two days for a couple of workers spraying it (fertiliser with Basis)."
Moora branch manager Jason Greay said Landmark had yield and revenue improvement data from other farms in Kulin, Carnamah and Wongan Hills where Basis had been used in similar comparison trials on canola, barley and wheat crops but with different fertilisers.
Trial results with canola in other areas had shown higher oil percentages as well as increased yield in crops where Basis-treated fertiliser was used, Mr Greay said.
Also, some of the logistical problems with using Basis could now be overcome by ordering granular fertiliser already treated, he said.
"With our Landmark fertiliser sheds we can treat the fertiliser before it's loaded (for delivery)," he said.
"But, we also still have the spray augers available so Basis can be applied on farm if that's what people want to do."
There was also a liquid fertiliser equivalent product option called Foundation which could be added to spray carts at about half the application rate of basis, Mr Greay said.