For progressive Kangaroo Island farmer Michael Mills, trialling new canola and wheat varieties offers the chance of raising the productivity of the family’s property at Parndana.
Michael runs the mixed-farm with wife Tracy and parents Alan and Janice, cropping 1350 hectares of canola, wheat and broad beans, and running 800 crossbred ewes.
He said KI was still very much a livestock-centric region, with most graziers not doing much cropping.
“The island is traditionally more grazier based. Graze and grain crops are still in the wait and see basket,” he said.
“More farmers are hopping on-board, but it’s still early days.”
Mr Mills first added dual-purpose graze and grain canola to his program of traditional canola in 2014, making better use of paddocks which get some waterlogging in winter, boosting the feed program for sheep, and ending in a profitable grain crop.
“On that 10 per cent of your farm that gets waterlogged, traditional canola will suffer so we’re trying to make those areas more profitable.
“Grazing canola combats waterlogging by developing that larger root system through summer when the soil profile is drying out and then handles the wet winters here.
“We sow it in spring, then after a seven week withholding period we start grazing. We get the first graze in late November and after that, it is rain dependant.
After grazing it twice, the crop of Hyola 971CL yielded 2.4t/ha and his Hyola 559TT yielded 3t/ha.
“Our average canola yields here are 2.1t/ha, so that was a great result.”
Mr Mills replaced 971CL with the latest variety Hyola 970CL (45ha) at sowing in October 2015.
“This crop has been grazed four times, we then locked it up when we got the break of the season, cleaned the weeds out and treat it like a traditional canola crop.”
He also sowed 230ha of Hyola 559TT and 200ha of another variety on May 8 on their better country.
Mills Farming uses 33pc of their cropping ground for canola, 33pc for wheat and 33pc for beans, which is important for their integrated weed management (IWM) program.
“The three different crops offer us multiple MOAs, with the triazine canola primarily targeting radish and ryegrass. We’ve also tried windrow burning in the past, and are interested in the Harrington seed destructor into the future.”
The farmers are also looking to improve productivity in their wheat; replacing older bread wheats with Trojan to complement their well-established program of Impala biscuit wheat.
“In 2016 we’ve planted 13ha of Trojan to bulk up. The neighbours have had good results with Trojan so we’re keen to give it a go.”
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Image: Michael and Alan Mills in their canola crop at Kangaroo Island