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Top wheat crops in a wet year
The Taylor’s top wheat crop was revealed at last week’s state final awards night for a prestigious annual wheat competition.
It was the second year in a row as wheat crop champions for Rob and Mandy Taylor, who run a mixed farming operation on a 2500 hectare farm near Grenfell.
Run by AgShows NSW, the peak body for 192 shows, the Suncorp Bank Championship Dryland Field Wheat Competition is judged across four regions (Northern, Central, Western and Southern) ahead of the state final.
To make the state finals, the top five crops in four regions are identified and then compared to determine the state winner.
Rob Taylor, a mixed farmer and NSW Farmers member, said the win came as a welcome surprise in a year of challenging wet conditions and the highest financial output on record.
“It was quite a shock, and a privilege,” Rob said.
Rob explained that they received a whopping 1030 mm of rain in 2022 on their farm, compared to an annual average of 600mm, which increased fungal disease pressure.
“I can’t hang my hat on one single thing that made it a top crop. We got our timing of our fungicide spot on. Most of our farm is well drained and we were fortunate that it dried up at the right time because we could have had a disastrous finish otherwise.”
“I did spend a lot of money on it. I could see the potential early and I did go pretty hard.”Grenfell farmer Rob Taylor.
Rob explained that fungicide prices have gone “through the roof”, and so they spent a lot on it.
“So it’s high input, high output. The win is certainly rewarding because it’s definitely been the most expensive crop I’ve ever grown,” he said.
“What also really helped us this year was having controlled traffic tramlines. That made the paddocks more accessible, and we could get on them to apply fungicides because there’s a lot of disease pressure this year with all the wet weather.”
That combined with a well-drained deeper red soil, meant an outstanding crop awaited the judges at ‘Glenalla’ last year.
The Taylors topped the central region with a point score of 218 for their 7.3t/ha Coolah wheat yield, ahead of Keith and Kate Perrett in Gunnedah (7.1t/ha 215pts) and Plantation Trading in Premer (6.4t/ha 198pts).
The durum wheat competition state champion, and winner of a farming excellence award was also revealed at last week’s celebrations.
In the durum yield competition, Bob and Dy O’Neil-Shaw from Quirindi scored highest for their 8.50 t/ha, achieving 238 points, ahead of Michael Smith from Moree (8.00 t/ha 227 pts) and Mitch and Cameron Waterhouse (6.70 t/ha 199 pts).
For the O’Neil-Shaw family operation, son Jack O’Neil-Shaw said this year’s crop was powered by a not-so-secret weapon – chook poo.
“The cost of Urea was so high that we put 1.3 tonnes of chook poo on it and even that was pretty hard to get a hold of because everyone must’ve been thinking the same thing,”Quirindi farmer Jack O’Neil-Shaw
“The other factor was the breed we used was Westcourt this year, and its disease resistance is a bit better than some of the older varieties,” Jack said.
It was a joint effort with wife Cecile, brother Ned, and parents Bob and Dy, with the guidance of agronomist Sam Gulliford.
Jack said the family’s sights are already set on a repeat winning performance.
“It was a pretty cool achievement and now we have to see if we can back it up and do it again next year,” he said.
Charlie Scott, farm manager at Bristol Farming, Croppa Creek, won the TJ Dwyer Farming Excellence award after impressing the judges with his knowledge and practices.
In the southern region, in Old Junee, Steven and Dr Felicity Harris and J&J Gummer’s 7.2 t/ha scored 216 ahead of John Ingold & Co of Temora (7.0 t/ha 214 pts) and Baldry & Sons in Wallendbeen (7.0 t/ha 212pts).
In western NSW, Ganmain’s Brent and Kendra Kerrisk’s crop scored the highest (6.8 t/ha 203 pts), followed by Greg Dickins from Berrigan (6.7 t/ha 201pts) and Josh Male from Peak Hill (6.1 t/ha 193pts).
Winning wheat crop at Croppa Creek
A New Zealander grew the top crop in the Northern Championship Dryland Field Wheat Competition.
NSW Farmers member David Smith, who used to work in the timber industry in New Zealand, is now a regional wheat growing champion. David moved to Croppa Creek in 2008 to start a grain farming career with wife Bronwyn.
The Smiths topped the northern NSW competition with a 7.0 t/ha crop of Coolah wheat grown on their 5000-hectare farm at Croppa Creek.
A modest David said a dose of good weather fortunes helped produced the above average yield and high-quality grain, which was harvested in mid- November.
“We had a kind finish to the crop,” David explains. “We didn’t get the normal hot conditions like last year – the weather for finishing was much cooler. It was not a record crop for us, but it was certainly well above average considering how wet it was last year. The paddock was also on sloping country, so it drained pretty well.”
Blake Phillips from Moree scored second place (6.9 t/ha 205 pts) in the northern competition, and the Browning family of Narromine in third place (6.45 t/ha 197pts).
Judging wheat in the wet
Heavy rainfall in 2022 impacted crops sown later in the season, and continued to present difficulties for sponsors Suncorp throughout the judging process.
“It was incredibly challenging with the flooding and wet weather and sponsors Suncorp needed to go to each farm in each region individually to inspect the wheat,” AgShows NSW president Peter Gooch said.
“With so many roads cut off, sometimes a two-day judging became three days including huge detours of a couple of hundred kilometres and northern judging was pushed back a full week as Narrabri was entirely flooded.
“Weather makes it incredibly challenging and Suncorp worked tirelessly to make it happen.”
Suncorp has sponsored the annual wheat competition for more than 10 years, a tradition Ben Graystone, Suncorp district manager for northern NSW, said the company is proud to uphold.
“It gives us great pride to be associated with the competition,” Ben said. “It keeps our finger on the pulse with what’s going on in the farming sector, and it’s a good opportunity to meet new customers, reconnect with existing customers and it’s a great educational opportunity for our managers, assistants and our graduates.”
Last year’s flooding and wet weather did impact the mental wellbeing of farmers. Read more here.