Monday, December 17, 2012

Rick Bieber - South Dakota

Rick Beiber is an inspiration to me. He farms in South Dakota and grows a variety of crops on 17" annual rainfall, the most impressive being corn, yielding up to 200 bu/acre (12.5 t/ha) on cover crop ground and up to 170 Bu (10.6 t/ha) after wheat.

In early 2009 I read an article about Rick Bieber similar to this in the VicNoTill magazine. That article, along with Wayne Smith's article, and our Bairnsdale trials, were my main encouragement to start growing corn. (Yes, I had to be told three times!)

An interesting quote from Rick: "No-till saves time, soil & water; Rotations manage time, soil & water."

Have a look at this video: Rick Bieber Presentation - video It is a little long (1 hr 18 min), however very worth your time, it may make you reconsider your current farming practises.

Other Links:
Rotations in No-till Dryland Farming
Rick dishes the dirt on US crops

Friday, December 7, 2012

Herbicide Tolerant Soybeans

Enlist E3 Soybean Brand Announced
Soybeans tolerant to 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate. Sounds pretty good to me. Why can't they do this for canola? What about chickpeas, field peas, mung beans, etc?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Global Warming

Two degrees of warming by 2050 'very difficult' to avoid

I'm still a climate change sceptic, however this article suggests that the warming will be very significant and very soon. 2050 is only 38 years away (as was 1974), but what does 2 degrees mean?

Sale Temperatures with and without climate change

If our average temperature for each month increased by 2 degrees this would have quite significant ramifications for our crops. We would be planting our winter crops maybe one week earlier, but they would be maturing one month earlier. June and July would disappear which should reduce any waterlogging problems, however it would increase the importance of getting our crops in on time. Assuming our rainfall stays the same it would give us less in crop rain, due to a shorter growing season. With good fallow management this shouldn't be a problem.

Our summer would start one month earlier and finish one month later. Our summer crop heat units would increase by 40%. This should make sorghum growing much easier, but also alllow us to get maize in one month earlier. Earlier planting of maize matches our rainfall pattern better. With earlier maturing winter crops and a longer summer, it should increase our double crop options.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Summer Legumes

We have planted a number of legumes to see what will grow over our summer. Most of the crops below were planted on the 23rd of November and the photos below were taken on the 30th of November - 7 days after planting. I suspect that mid November is the ideal time for most of these to be planted. When we determine which of these crops are suitable for our climate I'd like to experiment with later planting. I'm looking for a crop that we can plant immediately after harvest in years where we finish harvest with a full profile of moisture.

For most of these crops we will harvest 4 reps, graze 4 reps, brown manure 4 reps and green manure 4 reps.

The plots where the legumes are planted had corn in it last summer and has had a winter fallow with over 300mm from April to October. There is 1m of wet soil and soil temp was 21°C (70°F) at 9:30am on the day of planting.

We have 4 varieties x 4 reps. Purely a variety trial looking for an early maturity variety to suit our climate. Two problems with soybeans. First is that their flowering is daylength sensitive. They won't flower until the days get shorter (after December 22) and then not until the day reaches a certain length, depending on variety. Based soley on daylength a soybean variety that flowers in early January at Wagga would not flower until mid January in Gippsland. Flowering date is also affected by temperature, so flowering would probably be later again. Given that Soybeans haven't been grown in Southern Victoria it is likely that all varieties in Australia are going to be flowering later than optimum.

Second problem with soybeans is our cool nights, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Soybeans 7 days after planting
LablabA small plot of lablab was grown last year at the trial site, due to inadequate weed control it had to be sprayed out, however it was growing well and showing promise. It is a vigorous grower and should fix a lot of nitrogen.
Lablab 7 days after planting
Lablab 1st leaves unfolding
Something eating Lablab
Cowpeas have been grown at the trial site before, but only in a very dry summer where they yielded 670Kg/ha. Interesting to see how they go with a full profile of moisture.
Cowpeas 7 days after planting
Mung and Azuki Beans
Mung and Azukis are not out of the ground yet as they were planted 3 days later than the others. Azukis prefer cooler conditions than mungs. Mung Beans are also known as 'mongrel' beans so we will see how they grow. I've grown some in the vege garden before and hand harvested 1 t/ha.
Mung or Azuki Beans 4 days after planting
We have planted some chickpeas to see how they will go in our summer. Bairnsdale averages 21 days over 30°C (86°F) and 7 days over 35°C (95°F). Most of these occur in Mid January to Mid February. If the chickpeas flower after then they should be alright. Harvesting in the Autumn may be a problem though.
Chickpeas 7 days after planting
Serradella and Biserulla
Everyone tells me that they won't grow at all planted this late in the spring. They have plenty of moisture under them so I guess heat will be the only problem.
Serradella 7 days after planting

Chickpea Update

A bit of an update on the chickpeas at the trial site. They are podding up well and still flowering. This plant below has 155 pods and 55 flowers. FYI it has 71 pods on 8 primary branches, 73 pods on 16 secondary branches and 11 pods on 4 tertiary branches. There are no pods on the main stem.
The chickpeas were planted on the 10th of August in a wheat stubble. There was 520mm of rain between 1st December 2011 and 10th August, so there was plenty of stored moisture at planting. Between planting and Nov 30 we have had 140mm of rain, not very much but good for chickpeas. They have had a single spray for caterpillers and no fungicide as yet.
Red chickpea plants - I'm pretty confident that the red plants are due to a virus. They are only isolated plants which adds up to aphid spread virus infection.
Two things people tell me about chickpeas is that they should be planted earlier and that our soils are unsuitable.
Around the world chickpeas have three planting windows. The first is late summer in tropical areas where they are planted at the end of the monsoon, grown on stored moisture and harvested in winter. The second is late autumn and early winter in subtropical and temperate areas where chickpeas are grown on winter rainfall or irrigation. The third is a spring plant in areas with a very cold or very wet winter. In light of all this I think that a late winter plant should be fine for us. We need to do some trials to see if an earlier planting gives us any benefit.
Our soil types is a duplex loam over clay. The loam topsoil is naturally quite acid (pH 4.7 CaCl, 5.5 H2O). The trial site has had a good dose of lime and where the chickpeas are growing it has a pH of 5.2 (CaCl, 6.0 H2O). Our clay is pH neutral to slightly alkaline.

Chickpea Plant
Field Peas
We also have Kaspa field peas. They appear to be doing quite well. It would be interesting to compare field peas and chickpeas over the long term. Field peas should yield more, but chickpeas are worth more.
They would both fit really well planted into a corn stubble. The field peas might tolerate waterlogging better, and the chickpeas would tolerate drought and heat better. Personally, I like the chickpeas as they are something that could capitalise on our November rain, spreading our risk and stretching our harvest window a bit longer.
Kaspa Field Peas