Rain is an early-season confidence boost

Rain is an early-season confidence boost

Cropping News
Corrigin farmer Kim Courboules (left), with Elders Corrigin agronomist Logan Smith after good rainfall in the area.

Corrigin farmer Kim Courboules (left), with Elders Corrigin agronomist Logan Smith after good rainfall in the area.

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Kim Courboules said the recent soaking was a decent follow-up from 27mm recorded on April 11.

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FOR broadacre farmer Kim Courboules, Corrigin, 40 millimetres of rainfall has showered his property with confidence ahead of the season.

Mr Courboules said the recent soaking was a decent follow-up from 27mm recorded on April 11.

"Really it couldn't be any better of a start for us," Mr Courboules said.

"May is usually a pretty dry month - this rainfall event is one of the best I can ever remember.

"We have already recorded 145mm for the year so far, which is what we had for the whole growing season last year.

"That's pretty big and you have to go in with some confidence that it's going to be a good start to the season."

After April's rainfall event, Mr Courboules decided to immediately start seeding canola and barley.

Last year he was dry sowing crops and while he received some summer rainfall, it was quite early in the season.

"It was a February rain and there might have been some moisture deep down, but there was no way you would get crops established on it.

"From memory last year, we had rain towards the end of May, which brought the crops up and timing wise it was a reasonable sort of start.

"However, then there was a pretty dry period and weeds became a bit of a problem.

"Comparing this season with the last is like chalk and cheese."

A rainfall event of about 50mm in March, produced cereal and summer weeds in crops at Mr Courboules' property.

Those were controlled, however with the April rain came the ryegrass.

"We are using a second roundup to knock that, followed by Paraquat in the pre-emerging mix.

"That is giving us a really good chance of getting on top of any weeds."

Mr Courboules said he decided to pull up on planting Spartacus barley as it was still a fraction early, so he has switched to planting Scepter wheat.

"We have had a really good chance to get some good weed control using the double knock strategy," he said.

"So I'm staying ahead, spraying knockdowns and then coming back with Paraquat after that.

"It is giving me a good chance to kill off some ryegrass, whereas in the past few seasons we haven't had that.

"Pre-emergent chemicals haven't been working while we have been sowing dry and there has been a big reliance on post-emergent chemicals.

"It is really pleasing to be able to use the knockdown strategies and hopefully take a bit of the pressure off post-emergent stuff and get this pre-emergent chemical to work."

Mr Courboules is about halfway through his cropping program and he intends to finish seeding wheat before returning to the Spartacus barley and wrap up the program by the third week of May.

It is his third season growing Planet barley, however the past two years haven't produced strong final results.

Despite this, Mr Courboules persisted with the variety and decided to keep 25 tonnes in a silo.

He said he was glad he did with this season's early opportunity to sow, making it a longer growing season and giving him the ability to establish chemical fallow.

"We will hopefully see some big finishes with it this year and the roots are right down into the summer moisture.

"We could get a dry spell now and that would just keep powering on."

Mr Courboules is also bulking up on a long-season wheat variety called Denison, after he was involved in a trial with the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group last year.

Denison was the highest performing long-season wheat out of the four varieties, which were trialled, driving his decision to bulk up.

"We have 17 hectares of Denison in, so it will also be helpful to have some of that in the silo," Mr Courboules said.

"It will be one of those things that if the season lends itself to it, we will put it in.

"If not, it will just sit in the silo.

"I think most farmers are starting to give themselves some options for what the season throws at them."

Mr Courboules said he had also done some chemical fallow recently but it had only been a seasonal thing.

"If we get dry starts like the previous two seasons, we will duck for cover, leave 400ha or so out and let the moisture build up for the following year.

"That is so we have a kickstart for the next season.

"We sort of had a fallow on a lot of the barleys that only went 800 kilograms or a tonne last year.

"Then to have a full profile of moisture, well it is going to be hard to leave them out I think."

One issue, which has been playing on Mr Courboules' mind, has been frost.

However, after significant frost damage in 2016, he has made changes to adapt with the conditions.

He said usually he would have always sown canola first, followed by barley and wheat.

But this year two thirds of his barley program was sown (the majority of it long season Planet) before switching to wheat and then going back to barley as a frost planning strategy.

"2016 was a good start, but we remember that year for all the wrong reasons because it was a diabolical finish with lots of frost," Mr Courboules said.

"That is still always in the back of your mind, but it is certainly one of the best starts I have ever experienced as a farmer.

"But each season is different, it is hard to compare one to the other and we have had a couple of pretty lean years out this side of town.

"For example last year all of our proteins were right up in wheat and barley between 12 and 16 per cent and that's telling me there's got to be some goodies still left in the soil, so we have sort of cut inputs back a little bit.

"We are only putting out 40 kilos to the hectare of Dapzn and probably 40kg of urea upfront, which is about 20pc less than what we normally would do because there should be a bit of natural kick there from last year."

Mr Courboules said that would be his operation's upfront fertiliser input and he would continue to monitor the season.

He said he had "seen it before" where a farmer has a couple of dry years, especially on our heavy soil types, but they eventually get that benefit back when they get a favourable growing season.

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