Subsoil moisture gets EP crop through

Subsoil moisture means a crop for thirsty EP croppers


Grain
A summer spraying program paid dividends for Eyre Peninsula farmers.

A summer spraying program paid dividends for Eyre Peninsula farmers.

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THE BENEFITS of conserving summer rain were clear on the Eyre Peninsula this year.

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THE EYRE Peninsula in South Australia has enjoyed somewhat of a golden run in terms of crops over the past decade, but that run has come to a halt this year.

A late start and a poor spring combined to ensure a below average for the majority of growers in the region, one of Australia’s major grain growing areas.

However, the value of conserving summer rain was clearly borne out, according to one Minnipa grower in the central EP, who said January rains of around 60mm allowed crops to finish and generate some income.

Bruce Heddle said access to cheap glyphosate had allowed him to control summer weeds economically, which in turn left valuable moisture in the soil profile.

“We had the worst March to June rainfall virtually on record and a poor spring.

“There was good rain through July and August, but you’d have to say it was the conserved moisture that allowed us to get a crop.”

He said many wheat crops in his locality had averaged around 1.2 tonnes to the hectare.

“It’s not enough to make a pile of money, but it covers the costs, which is better than it looked at the end of June.”

Even canola, which traditionally needs to emerge early to achieve reasonable yields, had patches where it was reasonable given the in-crop rainfall.

“There were paddocks going 0.4t/ha, which doesn’t sound like much, but it pays for the harvesting and a bit more, given where the prices are at present.”

Mr Heddle said he had not planted lentils due to the late start.

With a combination of lower prices than in the past three seasons and poor yield averages locally it is not a decision he regrets.

“We are pretty happy we left them out this year,” he said.

Another boost to the bottom line for many in the region has been  strong income from livestock.

“The livestock prices continue to go from strength to strength and that has really insulated those of us that have sheep from the poorer season cropping-wise – it has shown the value of diversification.”

“Most people still have a mixed farming operation so that has been a positive.

Mr Heddle said most of the region was well equipped to cope with the lower earnings this year.

“We had a rough patch from 2002 to 2008 or so, but since then we’ve had a run of reasonable seasons, with back to back years where we’ve gone OK, which has been important to allow us to get that consolidation of your position rather than having one good year, one bad.

Mr Heddle’s property is in the central EP which has lower average rain than properties closer to the southern coast.

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