"IT was the best season I have ever had in my life.''
That was the emphatic response from Neridup grower John Wallace as he signed-off on season 2021 and turned his attention to the excitement of setting up a new seeding bar for the upcoming season.
The Wallaces grow canola, wheat, barley and lupins and also run a self-replacing flock of 2500 Merino ewes at Neridup in the Esperance region.
Their property, as well as leased and share-farmed land, comprises a range of soils from deep sandplain to transitional Mallee country, which features sand over gravel over clay, as well as some high rainfall Mallee country.
Mr Wallace said non-wetting soils on the property previously proved difficult, however since banding the SE14 moisture attraction and retention agent from SACOA, lupins have become a profitable pulse crop in the rotation and, in turn, provided benefits for following cereal crops and weed management.
At the recent harvest, the best of the lupins yielded more than four tonnes per hectare, some of the canola achieved the highest ever yield of about 4t/ha and averaged 3t/ha, while the wheat averaged 4.9t/ha.
"Since we started using SE14, the lupin yields have had exponential growth,'' Mr Wallace said.
"You need to use a wetting agent to get crops established on these difficult, non-wetting soils and SE14 has given us the confidence to do that.
"We can go into dry soils knowing that we can get good, even germination.
"The increased plant establishment is so significant that we think we could drop our seeding rate from 100 kilos (per hectare) to 80 kilos.
"As a result, it also improves the weed control.
"If you can get good establishment and canopy closure, it's a lot easier to control weeds.
"The even establishment meant our spray application timings last year were excellent.
"The crop was not staggered or varied, so we could get all the sprays on when they should be on.''
Mr Wallace said he used SE14 together with the rhizobia inoculant, EasyRhiz, mixed in an 18,000-litre batch tank with pump and venturi system and believed the complementary combination was helping to enhance lupin plant nodulation.
The solution has previously been banded with seed via a paired-row seeding kit on an Ausplow DBS bar.
The Wallaces are now setting up an 18-metre Equaliser bar for the new season and will continue with a paired-row system for cereals, however will switch to a single seeding boot for the lupins.
"With our high seeding rate for lupins (100-120kg/ha), it caused blockages in the paired rows - and there is a suggestion you don't need the paired-row for lupins because they are quite vigorous in their establishment,'' Mr Wallace said.
"We also believe we will get more bang for our buck with SE14 at 3 litres/ha applied in a single row with the lupins.''
With the bar set on 300 millimetre (12-inch) row spacings and with 160mm following press wheels, maintaining the paired-row system for cereals will better assist weed competition.
Dale Mott, Esperance Rural Supplies, said using SE14 with lupins in the region was a "no-brainer'' and the business was planning to look at further applications in canola, wheat and barley with growers.
He expected SE14 would mostly be applied across the sandplain, where it could help alleviate expensive soil amelioration practices such as claying and spading.
"For growers who can see the potential going forward, they need to look at getting their bars set up so they can really see the benefits of SE14,'' said Mr Mott who assists the Wallaces with their cropping program.
He said the even crop germinations certainly paved the way for correct timing of herbicide applications and he was particularly excited by the enhanced nodulation in lupins, leading to increased nitrogen fixation in soils.
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