The hot and dry 2016/17 summer was one of the most extreme David Bailey has seen in 30 years of farming on his property, Denby.
The Brookstead grower says relentless heat took a toll on his cropping program, which is spread out over around 2400 hectares of irrigation and dryland country.
“We predominantly grow sorghum, wheat, chickpeas, corn, and sometimes mungbeans if the weather’s right, and then in 2017 we’ve also got some cotton in,” Mr Bailey explains.
“We did plant a fair bit of corn this year, we had some contracts with processors to supply them with gritting corn, but the way the season went with the heat and the dry, it was a very tough season for corn.”
Mr Bailey has been growing Pioneer corn varieties for a number of years, and introduced P1756 hybrid corn into his rotation as soon as it was commercially available.
“We used to grow a lot of Pioneer brand 32P55, the predecessor to P1756, to supply the processing market, and we moved to P1756 as it was marketed as having a yield increase and better resilience to disease,” Mr Bailey says.
“We continued on the line because we’d had a good run and also the processors like that corn variety for grit to go into the mills for food-based products like corn chips or flour.
“Pioneer are quite proactive in their breeding programs to make sure they’re always getting the best varieties and having a grain the end users like for processing.”
Mr Bailey described the heat as ‘relentless’.
“I’ve never seen a summer like that, particularly the heat - we were getting up to ten days or more of heat wave temperatures, and there’s not many crops that enjoy those sorts of conditions,” he says.
“The P1756 held its grain quality quite well, in a year that’s been very tough, it’s probably proven itself to be the pick of the varieties as far as keeping its grain quality.”
“It certainly handled the conditions better than another corn variety I grew here, there’s no doubt about that - if I’d had all P1756, I would have been better off.”
Mr Bailey’s P1756 irrigated corn yielded around 10 t/ha, while the dryland P1756 was quite variable, yielding between 3 and 6 t/ha.