The canola component of Tim and Daniel Critch’s winter program has become a major part of their operation at “Wyalong”, Tenindewa.
The brothers use the crop as a weed and disease break to set up successive wheat crops for a better season.
Radish is the biggest problem weed, followed by ryegrass. Brome grass is becoming more of an issue, while buttongrass is a “huge issue” in wet summers.
Tim and Daniel, their respective wives Jen and Penny, and parents Tony and Judy farm 13,000ha.
The property, dotted with sheep and winter fallow paddocks a century ago, is now dominated by minimum till, broadacre cropping.
Last season they sowed 6000ha of canola and 7000ha of wheat.
Tim’s great-grandfather Leo Critch bought Wyalong in 1914, before walking off the land during Australia’s Great Depression of the 1930s.
Later, Tim’s grandfather Kevin Critch unwittingly bought that same property in 1947.
While minimum till has provided numerous benefits, it has put pressure on chemicals.
“Particularly now that we’re running more Roundup Ready canola, we’re mindful of protecting glyphosate.”
To protect their most used herbicide, they are trialling different chemicals, using strategic tillage and fallow to stop seed from setting, and using harvest weed seed management such as windrow burning to decrease weed numbers and reduce chemical usage.
“Along with infrared spot weed spraying helping reduce the amount of chemical, we are trying new Group G chemicals like Sharpen, as well as trials involving high rates of Gramoxone.”
Their rotation is canola/wheat/canola on the sandy, western side of the property, while on the light loam, eastern side they run fallow/wheat/canola/wheat.
They are open to change, however, opting to put a paddock to fallow when poor subsoil moisture is apparent, as well as dry sowing canola when needed.
“There’s no hard and fast rule. Some of our poorer paddocks that still require a large amount of rain, we put to fallow.
Mr Critch said newer varieties were also providing higher yields and oils.
“The new technology and breeding techniques have created a crop that has gone from break crop to cash crop in some seasons.
“Once upon a time you would say canola yields were half that of wheat, but it’s more than half now.
“Our experience has been that Roundup Ready hybrids provide the best yields and oils, but this season they went up a notch.”
RR crops delivered the highest yields, averaging 1.8t/ha, while open pollinated triazine varieties yielded an average 1.2t/ha.
“The truckies in the area had a competition going in their sample hut, and at the end our Hyola 404RR had the highest oil at 50.6pc.”
The high oil attracted a 12pc bonus on delivery to the Port of Geraldton.
Mr Critch attributed the result to variety choice and season length, as well as rainfall.
“It was a great year for oils because of the length of the season.
“We had summer rain of 150mm, a very wet March and a reasonable April, so we decided to sow the canola earlier on April 14 2015. The wheat program then kicked off at the start of May 2015.
“This meant canola harvest started in early October 2015, so while the early and mid season canola varieties went well, the long season varieties pegged out.”
Growing season rainfall was in the crop’s favour, climbing from the 223 millimetre average to 350mm. Annual rainfall went from the average 323mm to 426mm in 2015.