Members of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s Southern Regional Panel – comprising growers, researchers and advisers – provide personal insights to southern region grain growers regarding considerations for a successful 2017 growing season.
A grazing opportunity – Chair Keith Pengilley, Conara (Tasmania): Whilst it has been somewhat of a variable start across the southern region in 2017, significant rainfall events in some parts has seen many growers sow crops early and this presents a crop grazing opportunity for those with livestock. It is a strategy well worth considering given current buoyant prices for lamb, mutton and beef. There are rules of thumb for successful grazing of crops, particularly around the height crops should be before livestock go on and timing of removal of stock to ensure yield is not impacted. Consult with your local adviser or go to the GRDC’s Grain and Graze program website at http://www.grainandgraze3.com.au for useful tips.
Nut out nutrition – Deputy Chair Mike McLaughlin, Adelaide (SA): As crops start to establish, it is important to continue to think about crop nutrition – did I add enough P, will the crop need more S, or will micronutrients be a problem? Straight visual observation of the crop as it grows is often the best way to get an early warning that something is wrong; nutrient deficiency symptoms on leaves can suggest what the problem might be (http://www.ipni.net/ndapp), and can be followed up by soil or plant tissue tests to confirm the deficiency and suggest corrective action. There are always arguments about how to accurately determine if the crop’s nutrition is spot on and 2017 is no exception with record crops in 2016, flooded soils and heavy stubbles to deal with. The test that is difficult to argue against is the “paddock test” – growers can run their own simple trials using test strips to look for crop responses to either reduced or increased fertiliser rates above their chosen rate.
Cautious approach to N – John Bennett, Lawloit (Victoria): In light of the drier seasonal outlook and especially in areas where the season has commenced off the back of a moderate rainfall break, growers should adopt a cautious approach to nitrogen (N) application in cereals. Rather than applying a large amount of N upfront, it would be prudent to monitor how the season unfolds. N can be applied quite late into wheat and a good result can still be achieved. More information on strategic N application can be found in the GRDC’s stable of GrowNotes™ resources via https://grdc.com.au/Resources/GrowNotes.
Mouse watch – Rohan Mott, Ninda (Victoria): Monitoring mouse numbers in the Mallee throughout the season will be important. We have been, and are continuing to bait during our sowing program. Despite this, we are still seeing damage from mice in early sown vetch and lupins, particularly around mouse holes. This will have implications, such as broadleaf weeds thriving in these bare areas. Don’t succumb to a false sense of security – even if mice aren’t active through the winter months, continue to monitor your crops and if necessary prepare for the possibility of aerial baiting being necessary in the spring to prevent yield loss. Damage may occur in all crops. To stay informed, follow @mousealert on Twitter or log on to www.mousealert.org.au to contribute to surveillance.
Perfect storm for damage – Kate Wilson, Hopetoun (Victoria): A combination of factors have created the “perfect storm” in terms of crop diseases and insect pests in 2017. Large stubble loads, a carryover of some diseases, the green bridge of weeds and volunteers, good opening rains in some parts and current mild conditions have heightened the risk to crops in 2017. Understanding what crops are likely to be vulnerable to diseases and pests and having management strategies in place in advance is essential. Reports of unprecedented levels of cucumber mosaic virus in lentil seed in SA and Victoria is a particular concern – the potential for damage is very high. Keep a close eye on lucerne flea which seems to already be an issue in canola, and monitor early-sown crops for Russian wheat aphid. Check the GRDC website at https://www.grdc.com.au for pest and disease management resources.
Act fast on snails – Peter Kuhlmann, Mudamuckla (SA): Snail numbers have built up since 2016 and baiting should have occurred soon after the opening rains, which is when they move down from their resting places (stubbles, weeds etc) to feed. Well-timed baiting is essential to ensure an effective kill while snails are feeding and before they commence breeding and laying eggs. Snails need to feed and rehydrate before laying eggs. When snails are actively trying to lay eggs, they are less interested in eating the baits, so bait effectiveness is reduced. Juvenile snails are poorly controlled by baits. More information on snail control can be found in the GRDC Snail Management Fact Sheet at www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-FS-SnailManagement.
Slugging it out – Jon Midwood, Inverleigh (Victoria): In the high rainfall zones of Victoria and Tasmania, April 2017 was wetter than average and slug activity (both grey field slugs and the deeper-living black keeled slugs) has increased significantly. This has serious implications as canola crops are just starting to emerge. Affected areas should be checked after baiting and re-baiting may be required under high slug infestations or split emergence of populations due to different species co-occurring in the same paddock. More information can be found by searching ‘slugs’ on the GRDC website, https://www.grdc.com.au.
Protect the young – Mark Stanley, Port Lincoln (SA): With the increased area of canola going in 2017, close monitoring of emerging crops for seedling pests, including slaters, millipedes, snails and slugs is recommended. If temperatures remain high into late May 2017, be on the lookout for green peach aphid (GPA) as canola seedlings establish. GPA have demonstrated resistance to a range of insecticide groups and they can transmit a range of viruses that can severely affect canola growth. There are a range of natural predators which can help to keep aphid numbers under control so consider this when deciding if to use insecticide. Visit www.grdc.com.au/GPAResistanceStrategy for more information on managing GPA.
Depth matters – Bill Long, Auburn (SA): Sowing crops at the optimum seeding depth is extremely important so it is well worth following up on 2017’s sowing programs by checking the depth of seed as crops emerge. A simple way of determining if seed has gone in at the right depth is to take a photo of the seed depth marker on the seeder bar and compare that in-paddock with where the seed is placed in the soil. It may be that the seeder will need adjusting for 2017’s sowing programs to ensure seed is being placed at the desired depth. More information is contained in the GRDC’s GrowNotes™ at https://grdc.com.au/Resources/GrowNotes.
Root cause – Rob Sonogan, Swan Hill (Victoria): Don’t forget about root diseases, such as cereal cyst nematode, take-all and rhizoctonia root rot, which are still quite prevalent in the southern cropping region and can cause significant yield loss. From early tillering onwards, look for plants that are showing symptoms of disease, dig them up (don’t pull them up) and have a close inspection of the roots. While it will be too late to prevent yield loss in 2017, it is well worth determining what the disease is – check the GRDC Cereal Root and Crown Diseases Back Pocket Guide at https://grdc.com.au/r/cerealroot-backpocketguide – and making note of crop variety and disease location, as root diseases can be easily controlled with crop rotation and resistant varieties.