Borlaug 100 smashes yield record in Queensland field

Liz Wells, April 21, 2021

The Mickelborough family’s irrigated Borlaug 100 wheat crop was harvested in November and yielded 8.72t/ha. Photo: G Vickery Photography

A CROP of Borlaug 100 wheat grown at Dalby on the Darling Downs has set a new record of 8.72 tonnes per hectare in the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland (RASQ) Crop Competition.

Grown by Derryck Mickelborough, the crop initially won the Irrigated Winter Crop section, and came in ahead of Peter Waetjen’s crop of Lancer wheat grown at Pampas which yielded 7.3t/ha to win top honours.

The Borlaug 100 crop beat the previous RASQ yield record of 8.2t/ha set by the Bligh Family Trust of Brookstead with a crop of Crusader wheat in 2011.

While Borlaug 100 is a newcomer to the RASQ winners’ circle, Lancer as a Pacific Seeds Prime Hard variety has been making appearances since the 2016 competition.

Lancer took out both the champion and reserve dryland field wheat crops respectively for Peter, Ann, Adam and Luke Campbell at Goondiwindi with a 6.25t/ha yield, and Tait Farming at Millmerran with 5.86t/ha.

Strong results from low entries

Entries in the 2021 RASQ Crop Competition encompass winter crops grown in 2020, and 2019-20 summer crops.

Competition coordinator Andrew Speed said this year’s entries competed in a narrowed field which reflected the tail end of the 2017-19 drought.

“In a normal year we might get 30-40 entries, but we only had about 20 this year,” Mr Speed said.

This also includes winning crops from local show society competitions on the Darling Downs and surrounds, which proceed to the RASQ’s Toowoomba Royal Show Field Wheat and Barley competition.

A requirement for all competition entries is for grain to be weighed in a weighbin.

“That takes about an hour, and has to be done at a scheduled time.

“Unfortunately this year that did not happen with the barley entries so there were no prizes presented.”

“With storms around everywhere at harvest, it didn’t work for barley; people chose to get their crops off as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of weather damage.”

Dryland and irrigated crop entries compete only in the RASQ competition, and totalled 13 this year, with points awarded based on how each entry compared to ceiling yields recorded in previous years for each section.

The winners of the RASQ Crop Competition’s dryland and irrigated sections then vie for champion and reserve champion.

Mr Mickelborough’s Borlaug 100 crop with 212.6 points was a clear winner.

Mr Waetjen’s Lancer on 177.1 points came in just ahead of Ted and Kerri Shooter’s irrigated crop of Pacific Sentinel IG sorghum on 174.3 points to take the reserve.

Borlaug breaks ground

Mr Mickelborough is a director of Rebel Seeds, the company formed to release Borlaug 100 as a high-yielding feed wheat for Queensland, with potential to be classified as a bread wheat.

Borlaug 100 was bred at Mexico’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, commonly known as CIMMYT, and is grown in Mexico as a bread wheat.

It got going commercially in Australia in 2019, and is now being grown in Central and southern Queensland, and in northern NSW.

Its biggest ever area is expected to be planted this year following recent and widespread rain.

Mr Mickelborough’s award-winning crop came from a 112-hectare paddock planted at 40 kilograms/ha into fallow following a 2018-19 cotton crop.

“We didn’t have soil tests done after the cotton and assumed some good mineralisation, and we added 100kg/ha of urea post emergence,” he said.

The Mickelboroughs also planted some Borlaug 100 at 30kg/ha, 60kg/ha and 80kg/ha.

“We found that the lower planting rates outperformed the higher planting rates this season.”

The crop was planted in early June into good subsoil moisture, and received 38 millimetres of rain in mid-June, another 38mm in July, and 39mm in August as its last effective in-crop rain.

The crop had its first irrigation in early September, and its second and final watering over late September-early October.

“We did have rain from October 15, but we don’t believe it was useful to the crop because the irrigation finished only nine days earlier.”

Harvest started November 6.

“It’s pretty exciting for Borlaug to now hold the title of having the highest ever recorded wheat yield in Queensland that we know of.”

“We don’t consider ourselves to be extraordinary farmers, and we don’t have extraordinary soil, so we would think there is ample room for other growers to far exceed the yield that we achieved.”

Fit with cotton

Toowoomba-based CSIRO senior research scientist Allan Peake said while irrigated wheat showed no signs of displacing cotton as the top-earning irrigated crop in most Queensland farming systems, the RASQ wheat results were encouraging.

“Wherever cotton is grown, wheat is often grown to use up surplus water and provide a rotational crop into cotton production systems,” Dr Peake said.

“A lot of Queensland soils have a high capacity to hold plant-available water, and if those soils are holding a lot of moisture at the start of the season, that obviously makes a big difference as to how much irrigation  you need to apply during the growing period.”

“Those CIMMYT varieties have been bred to get maximum water out of the soil, and Borlaug is one of many varieties that are based on genetics from Mexico that has been of huge benefit to growers in Australia.”

“And if you can sell it as a feed wheat in the local market, that means you can make the most of extra yield potential without running the risk of missing a protein target.”

SORGHUM Entrant Location Variety Yield kg/ha
1st Brazil Farming Co Brookstead Pacific MR Bazley 7189
2nd Krinke Farms Brookstead Pioneer A66 6928
3rd Brazil Farming Co Brookstead Pacific MR Bazley 6827
1st Woolooga Farming Dalby Pioneer P1315IT 7521
1st David & Tanya Peters Allora Pacific Sunbird 7 839
1st Preema Partnership Byee Bollgard 3 7010
1st Ted & Kerri Shooter Allora Pacific Sentinel IG 10184
2nd Charles Farming Co Cambooya Pacific MR Taurus 9201
1st Simmich Farming Dalby Bollgard 3 14250
Equal 2nd Jovalan Farms Munduberra Bollgard 3 13630
Equal 2nd Graincott Dalby Bollgard 3 13630
1st/RASQ champion Glenesk Farming Dalby Borlaug 100 8720
2nd/RASQ reserve Peter Waetjen Pampas Lancer 7263
Placing Entrant Show society Variety Yield kg/ha
Champion Campbell family Goondiwindi Lancer 6250
Reserve Tait Farming Millmerran Lancer 5860

Table 1: RASQ Irrigated, Dryland and Field Wheat 2021 Crop Competition results.

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