GRAIN growers in southern high rainfall zones (HRZ) who are considering sowing crops in spring are being urged to do so at the earliest opportunity – if soil conditions are suitable – to maximise growth, yield and fit with winter cropping programs.
Crops sown now can develop important tiller growth and root systems to help maximise yield while being harvestable early enough to avoid high ambient temperatures, diminishing soil moisture and impacting on sowing of next year’s winter crops.
In paddocks where a winter crop was not sown, spring sowing can provide an opportunity to utilise empty paddocks while not disrupting key rotations.
These were the messages delivered by Premier Ag Consultancy Group’s Annieka Paridaen and Southern Farming Systems’ Jon Midwood at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update at Lake Bolac in Victoria.
Ms Paridaen and Mr Midwood outlined the various spring sown options available to growers in the HRZ, including the opportunities and threats attached to each of these.
“There is no reason why a spring-sown cereal, especially barley, cannot achieve reasonable gross margins,” Ms Paridaen said.
She did, however, caution growers that spring sowing carries a lot more risks.
The lower input costs compared to a winter sown wheat or barley crop came at the risk of dry spring conditions leading to moisture and heat stress during flowering and grain fill, resulting in a low-yielding and poor quality crop.
“Their final yield is heavily dependent on the spring finish,” Mr Midwood said.
He recommended keeping input costs to a minimum to help secure reasonable gross margins.
Similarly, delaying a spring-sown crop could have knock on effects that delay autumn sowing and the quality of the following winter crop.
Autumn sowing priority
Ms Paridaen and Mr Midwood both stressed that “autumn sowing of winter crops is the priority”.
They said if a spring-sown crop was impacting on a grower’s ability to sow in autumn, its value in the system should be reconsidered.
They said agronomic practices needed to be adjusted to reflect the shorter growing season of spring-sown crops.
Regardless of the crop, all seeds need to be sown with fertiliser and particularly phosphorus if the soil concentration of phosphorus is unknown.
Spring sowing options
Options for spring sowing vary, with different crops suited to different circumstances. Sunflowers, safflower, buckwheat, millet, grain sorghum and maize all provide an option for farmers looking to improve soil health and grazing resources.
Similarly, linseed can also provide feed for animals but for a farmer looking for a spring crop to sell, these crops are often difficult to find markets for.
Spring-sown winter canola can offer both a crop to sell and animal feed but requires good moisture levels and can facilitate ryegrass control problems if there are no other integrated controls.
Ms Paridaen and Mr Midwood said a grower looking to take advantage of a spring-sown crop should carefully assess their individual situation and select the crop most suited to their circumstances.
They said the potential gains from a good spring season in 2017 would come from an early and well planned sowing of the most appropriate crop type.
More information on spring-sown crop options can be found in the GRDC Grains Research Update paper at https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/grdc-update-papers/tab-content/grdc-update-papers/2017/08/spring-sowing-crop-options-getting-the-best-results