Digging deep for winter plant

Chinchilla Show field wheat winner plans for dry 2016 planting conditions


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Wheat win: Field wheat runner up Tony Bender, Hopeland, winner Michael Sperling, Hopeland, Chinchilla Show Society president Greg Stanke, and judges Allan Mason, Chinchilla and Paul McIntosh, Pulse Australia.

Wheat win: Field wheat runner up Tony Bender, Hopeland, winner Michael Sperling, Hopeland, Chinchilla Show Society president Greg Stanke, and judges Allan Mason, Chinchilla and Paul McIntosh, Pulse Australia.

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After experiencing perfect planting conditions in 2015, Michael Sperling, Hopelands, is changing tactics under dry conditions for the 2016 Chinchilla Show wheat competition.

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Deep planting is looking like the best chance for Michael and Rebecca Sperling, Kildare, Hopeland, to take home their third consecutive win in the Chinchilla Show field wheat competition.

Mr Sperling said conditions for his 2015 winning crop of dryland Mitch wheat and current planting conditions could not be more different.

“We had our wheat planted by this time last year with a full moisture profile and received August rainfall at the ideal time,” he said.

“This year the moisture just isn’t there so we’re contemplating deep planting wheat, chickpeas and barley as we’re running into the ideal planting time.”

Mr Sperling said a deep plant was preferable as opposed to a later plant to avoid yield penalties as a result of hot weather.

“It would be reasonable to expect losses in yield of a good two tonnes per hectare if we planted in late July,” he said.

“Our 2015 crop was the biggest wheat crop I’d grown in 20 years with an average yield of between 3.5 and 3.7t/ha.

“If we waited for rain we could be looking at yields below 2.5t/ha.”

With wheat and chickpeas capable of plant depths of up to 125 and 250 millimetres respectively, Mr Sperling said deep planting was a more attractive option.

“We only need about 20 millimetres of rain but there’s nothing on the horizon and the window of opportunity will pass sooner or later.”

Mr Sperling’s 2015 wheat crop was also judged reserve champion in the state competition, second to Michael Hegarty, Alcheringa, Brookstead, with his crop of Lancer yielding 5.64t/ha.

Chinchilla Show field wheat competition co-judge Allan Mason, Lankeys Bend, Chinchilla, said the quality of crops made judging a difficult task.

“I’m amazed at how farming practices continue to improve year after year, especially the presentation of crops- there’s not a weed in them,” Mr Mason said.

“We couldn’t separate the two top crops so we relied on the header to give us the different yields.”

Mr Sperling farms 700 hectares at Kildare and said his success in wheat competitions was attributable to external factors.

“Farming practices have changed greatly in recent years and newer wheat varieties with higher yields are becoming readily available,” he said.

“There’s a lot of work going in and we’re seeing a few new varieties every year with better disease resistance and various other improvements that benefit growers.

“We’ll trial new varieties if they suit our needs and have particular attributes that work for our operation at the time.”

Crops are judged according to seven criteria including estimated yield, trueness to type, freedom from disease, crop evenness, crop condition and freedom from weeds.

Chinchilla Show Society president Greg Stanke said the Landmark sponsored wheat competition was growing in popularity each year.

“We base this competition on community spirit and encourage people to do their best with farming and reap the rewards of their hard work,” Mr Stanke said. 

Mr Sperling said his success with Mitch wheat in its first year of commercial availability meant he would grow the variety for the 2016 season and beyond.  

The story Digging deep for winter plant first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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