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BCG - Tips to get the best start to sowing or seeding

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • Jan 29, 2018

How you manage your farm in the months leading up to sowing are vital in improving your chances of better yields and grain quality at harvest.

We’ve sifted through the information to provide a list of ‘go-to’ resources for planning in 2018.

Stubble management
It’s been said many times before but “stubble management starts at harvest”. The opportunity to adjust your stubble height and trash throw has passed but there are still plenty of things you can consider to maximise stubble management over summer. The GRDC-funded stubble project (BW00024 Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble in Victoria and Tasmania) offers some useful resources on the stubble focused website which was developed through the project. In particular the Guidelines for Growers section including: 7. Tools to manage fallow period, 8. Monitoring stubbles during the fallow period, 9. Sowing into stubble: seeder set-up and selection, 13. Herbicide application in retained stubble systems and 16. Crop nutrition in a retained stubble system.

Controlling summer weeds
Rainfall in early December saw many growers across the region leave their headers only to start the sprayer for some summer weed control. With sowing still a few months away, there is still time for rainfall events to germinate pesky weeds.

The GRDC publication Summer Fallow Weed Management (ICN00012) was produced to aid growers to stop weeds in their tracks and highlight the benefits for control such as:

   * Increased plant available water
   * A wider and more reliable sowing window
   * Higher levels of plant available nitrogen (N)
   * Reduced levels of weed vectored diseases and nematodes
   * Reduced levels of rust inoculum via interruption of the green bridge
   * Reduced levels of diseases vectored by aphids that build in numbers on summer weeds
   * Reduced weed physical impacts on crop establishment, and
   * Controlling the green bridge.

How to conduct a germination test
Testing the viability of your retained seed can be done with a simple germination test to determine an appropriate seeding rate for 2018. BCG produced a germination test fact sheet that can be found here.

What to do about mice
A mouse plague could still be on the cards for the 2018 season, and growers should be proactive about mouse management well before sowing begins.

Growers across the Wimmera and Mallee were hard pressed to stay on top of the problem in 2017, but mostly managed to avoid the severe and widespread damage generally associated with a plague.

However, with mouse plagues often developing over a two year cycle and current conditions remaining conducive, the biggest threat could still lie ahead. Staying focused on effective mouse management is more important than ever.

GRDC has published a number of in-depth, useful grower guides on mouse management as part of project IAC00002 (see

BCG research officer Sebastian Ie has compiled a detailed article for the 2017 BCG Season Research Results compendium available to members at the BCG Trials Review Day. Steve Henry, CSIRO, will also be presenting at the event on management over the next three months and recent population patterns.

Crop nutrition
The past four years saw our cropping region hit by the extremes: 2014 and 2015 were very dry years, then two high production years followed in 2016 and 2017. Both scenarios called for careful nutrition planning to maximise yield opportunities. As fertiliser is one of the budget lines with the potential for savings, the article “Planning Nutrition for 2016” in the 2015 BCG Season Research Results compendium was produced with a range of guidelines for growers contemplating what to do at the start of the season. The recommended process was:

   * Fit the fertiliser to the budget
   * Keep soil testing in the budget
   * Consider using variable rate applications (VRA)
   * Do the maths on fertiliser blends

Protecting Mallee soils over summer
Wind erosion is a serious issue. Reduced ground cover due to poor stubble or over-grazing can lead to a degradation in soil health leading to production issues. In many cases, you can still graze stubbles without having a negative impact. With funding from the Australian Government, Mallee CMA and BCG produced this YouTube clip explaining what can be done to mitigate the threats.

The GRDC-funded Grain and Graze 3 project produced a stubble assessment tool to assist growers in assessing the feed value of a stubble based on the quantity of grain and green material in a stubble.

Early sown wheat
Provided with an opportunistic rainfall break, can I sow a winter wheat or should I stick with a spring cultivar?

Now into its fifth year at BCG, research investigating the potential yield benefits and penalties of growing spring or winter wheats early have found it’s all about sowing to take advantage of available moisture, particularly from late summer rainfall and reduced autumn rainfall and sowing to take advantage of optimal flowering period.

While skill level of forecasts at sowing is not extremely high, understanding where to find information about seasonal climate forecasting can be handy throughout the season. For Victorian and South Australian Mallee growers the Very Fast Break team of Agriculture Victoria’s Dale Grey and Graeme Anderson provide a great understanding of what is occurring in your area.