Long Season Wheat Project
- Changes in rainfall patterns with more summer rains in the Facey Group region may provide opportunities to sow long-season wheats into early moisture.
- Long season wheats may expand ‘optimal window’ of their sowing program by utilising a variety that can be seeded earlier and will still flower in line with the short-mid varieties.
- Long-season wheats provide grazing potential in autumn while pastures are still establishing.
Previous investments by GRDC indicated that winter and slow-developing spring cultivars produce higher yields when sown early into ample stored soil water, compared to quicker maturing varieties sown later. Climate predictions indicate summer and early autumn rainfall events will remain consistent in Southern Western Australia, despite a decline in early growing season rainfall.
Soil moisture from these summer rainfall events is often conserved via chemical fallow to retain moisture to assist the germination of April-May sown crops. An opportunity therefore exists to utilise this stored soil moisture better to grow productive, long-season wheat varieties that are sown earlier into this moisture and can be used for both stock grazing and a cash crop.
As farm businesses expand their cropping programme, they face increasing difficulty sowing all crops and varieties within their respective short, often overlapping, ‘optimal windows’ to minimise frost risk and optimise grain yield. Facey Group trialled Illabo and Denison to investigate the possibility of early sowing opportunities, evaluate grazing potential, and impact on yield for various long-season wheat varieties. Yield varied by variety with Denison outperforming Illabo.
Long-season wheat such as Illabo and Denison can be sown early, or into dry conditions and still establish. The brief grazing period did demonstrate that grazing will not significantly damage the crop. If the crop had been put in earlier a second grazing period might have been considered. More investigation could be done into how grazing impacts the flowering window and how this may be manipulated to reduce frost risk.
The host farmer was surprised that Denison yielded higher than Illabo, especially with the later sowing dates. Factors that could have contributed to this result include time of sowing, waterlogging, double knock on the Denison, and the very soft finish to the season. He would consider using long-season wheat again opportunistically if he had early rains. Selection of a paddock location close to ewes might provide feed at a critical time of the year when pastures could use time to recover.
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This formed part of a larger project with Stirlings to Coast. https://www.scfarmers.org.au/summer-cropping
Facey Group would like to thank the GRDC for investing in this project.