THE difficulties with establishing crops on non-wetting soils continued to be well highlighted even in an ideal season last year, as was the benefits of still including a moisture retention agent at seeding.
The Butcher family near Newdegate has encountered significant non-wetting issues on sandy gravel country that Jos Butcher said featured a fine sand on the top, creating a seal.
"It can be the middle of July and we can still have rows that have not established,'' Mr Butcher said.
Together with his younger brother Rupert, and parents, David and Julie, Jos and his partner Greta, continuously crop 5500 hectares to wheat, barley, lupins, canola and oats at their Hollands Track Estate property and including some share-farmed land.
There are large areas of non-wetting in the sandy gravels, while the soils also run into gravel ironstone and gravelly sand over clay and Mr Butcher said they could all feature in the one paddock.
The Butchers have trialled deep ripping in sandy areas of some paddocks and used an offset disc to amend the non-wetting with some success, however last season they decided to use the SE14 moisture attraction and retention agent from SACOA.
It was applied in the seed zone with all of their lupins and canola - and also trialled in some wheat and oat crops.
"We had heard the results were fairly proven - and half the battle with canola is getting it out of the ground in the beginning," Mr Butcher said.
"It is vital to get the initial establishment,'' Mr Butcher said.
He said they conducted skip-row trials in some wheat and oats, the latter which was planned for hay but then carried through to harvest after prices fell, and biomass images revealed a "checkerboard'' in the crops, highlighting where the SE14 was applied.
"Dad said he could see the skip rows up in the boomsprayer," Mr Butcher said.
"We could see that even in a wet season, we have a non-wetting issue."
The Butchers carried out liquid applications at seeding for the first time last year, fed from a 7000-litre liquid tank on their Simplicity air cart to a 24-metre (80-foot) SeedMaster bar with dual chute sowing boot, all pulled by a Case IH Steiger 550 Quadtrac.
Urea was topdressed upfront at 100 kilograms/ha, although Flexi-N liquid nitrogen will be used this year, an MAP and Muriate of Potash fertiliser blend was banded at the base of the leading tyne at 65-70kg/ha, and the SE14 was applied with the seed at 2.5L/ha diluted in 50L/ha of water.
With some wheat on their home farm and canola and barley on a new property, the family also applied the specialist liquid fertiliser, Macro Prima, with the SE14 at 7L/ha.
Typically, no further urea top-ups are applied.
Seeding rates included lupins and oats at 100 kilograms/ha, wheat at 60kg/ha and canola at 4kg/ha.
Mr Butcher said the Macro Prima mixed well and it would continue to be applied this year, while the Butchers also will consider applying Flexi-N with the SE14 in some crops.
He said he understood the Macro Prima could also help prevent crop scorch that can occur when liquid nitrogen fertiliser was placed with the seed.
Rainfall of about 25 millimetres in the middle of April set the tone for a favourable season for the Butchers last season.
Mr Butcher said he didn't see any dust behind the seeder bar during the whole program and then cool conditions prevailed.
They also trialled some other wetter products alongside the SE14 rows, however he said the quality of the SE14 solution and its ease of application made it superior.
They modified a venturi pump to use with their water pump, enabling the effective dilution of the SE14 with water and maintaining it in suspension during its transfer into the air cart liquid tank.
This season the Butchers plan to again use SE14 with their lupins and canola and to continue trials with cereals in suitable paddocks.
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