ASH Chadwick has been using a soil moisture agent with his crops on the "delightful forest gravel soils'' in the Williams area for four years and after deciding to exclude it from a few paddocks this season due to the wetter conditions, he said he wouldn't make the same mistake again.
Mr Chadwick and his partner, Jacky, together with their sons, Nicholas, 13, and Dylan, 11 , crop 75-80 per cent of their property in the Williams shire, while they also have a block in the Boddington shire.
In addition to growing canola, oats, export hay, wheat and barley, they also run 2000 Dohne ewes.
Mr Chadwick said the mainly gravel to sandy gravel soils cause non-wetting, nutrient availability and various other concerns.
The Boddington block has just come out of trees and into canola and also posed its own nutrient challenges.
"Forest gravels can mess with your head," Mr Chadwick said.
"There is a huge lock-up component and our P (phosphorus) rates have increased from 14 up to 22 (kilograms/hectare of P).
"We are using much more K (potassium) as well and we are getting better results, plus manganese later.
The Chadwicks have experimented with clay spreading problem paddocks and select areas to improve nutrient and moisture holding capacity, while the SE14 moisture attraction and retention agent from SACOA has been used at seeding after viewing strong crop responses to the product on a neighbouring farm and conducting initial trials.
"SE14 has certainly been beneficial the past few years when you start looking at the program overall," Mr Chadwick said.
"The consistently bad patches are a lot better."
However, with 250 millimetres of rain falling over the property up until the end of May this season, the Chadwicks decided not to apply SE14 in some barley and wheat paddocks during the latter stages of their seeding program.
"Where you leave the product out, you do notice it,'' he said.
"We were surprised, the establishment was not as good as we were expecting.
"On the gravel ridges, it wasn't uniform.
"With the SE14, you get even establishment and good crop competition.
"We will now just put it over everything.''
Mr Chadwick said, anecdotally, there also appeared to be more disease in one of the barley paddocks that did not receive SE14.
"It was hit pretty hard, maybe by nematodes or a root disease such as rhizoctonia," he said.
"It was certainly noticeable.
"Whether it is associated with non-wetting, nutrition or perhaps the SE14 in the other paddocks helping to activate the fungicide better - it's a scratch your chin issue.
"It also may be enhancing the activity of pre-emergent herbicides.''
The Chadwicks have updated their seeding bar to an Equalizer bar with a 30 centimetre (12 inch) paired-row system.
It is hitched to an upgraded 9000-litre Simplicity air cart carrying seed and granular fertiliser, while UAN liquid nitrogen with flutriafol fungicide and the SE14 are applied via 6000L twin, drawbar-mounted tanks.
MAPSZC compound fertiliser is applied with the seed at 100kg/ha and up to 120kg/ha on the cleared Boddington block, the SE14 is applied at 2L/ha also in the seed zone and the UAN is banded deeper at 55L/ha.
"We are convinced it's better to have separation with the N (nitrogen) and, in an ideal world, we may band P as well,'' Mr Chadwick said.
Muriate of Potash (MoP) is applied prior to seeding, although he plans to displace some of this with Sulphate of Potash (SoP) from next season, while urea is top-dressed mid-season and UAN is applied later depending upon crop potentials.
Seeding rates include 2.2kg/ha for canola, 160kg/ha for export oaten hay and 100kg/ha for cereal crops.
Mr Chadwick said crop establishment and evenness was a "stand-out'' with SE14, particularly in canola and oats.
"Certainly with canola and oats - it's a no-brainer," he said.
"You don't get staggered spray windows from canola being from two-leaf to six-leaf, which was a problem with RR (Roundup Ready) canola.
"It also helps with spray timings in oats."
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