Having cropped their fourth-generation family farm, ‘Dalmeny East’ at Kalannie, 260km north east of Perth, for almost 100 years, the Nixon family knows how to manage a cropping program increasingly challenged by dry years and acidic soils.
A Nuffield Scholar, Bob Nixon’s 2017 report, ‘Mitigating risk in a dry and variable climate’, investigated rotations and techniques to achieve and maintain profitable eastern wheatbelt farming businesses in the current cycle of dry and variable seasons.
Along with his brothers and their families, this year they managed 15,000 hectares of wheat, barley, canola, lupins and field peas, with 6000 ha left as fallow or serradella cover crop due to the late break and last year’s good cropping season.
Harvest commenced October 20, making it a very short growing season with the late break in the first week of July.
“All crops were below average, but have performed well considering how dry and warm the growing season was,” Bob said in early December.
Barley has long been successfully grown at ‘Dalmeny East’ on what Bob terms valley floors with shallow saline water tables.
”This continues to be a challenge we have to manage, as new malting varieties are released, accredited and adopted,” Bob said.
The Kalannie area only grows enough malt barley to support segregation for one malt variety.
“While we’ll keep growing Spartacus CL on valley floor country, we’ve just bulked up InterGrain’s new Buff barley where the slope country breaks and runs up into lighter soils and gravels where we have subsurface acidity, despite lifting surface pH with liming,” Bob said.
“Subsoil acidity and associated aluminium toxicity continues to be a big problem for much of the eastern wheatbelt, including our farm, as it’s expensive, difficult to fully ameliorate and takes time to fix.
“Acid tolerant varieties like Litmus and, hopefully, Buff, will continue to play a role.”
“Our Buff bulk-up was a highlight of our 2019 cropping year, yielding 2.23 t/ha and impressing me as a competitive barley, with good height and which harvested well.”
It also had good protein at 11%, hectolitre weight of 65.5 and screenings 28%.
Buff was dry sown into pea stubble at 32kg/ha, with 30kg compound fertiliser and no extra added nitrogen.
Buff was also impressive in the 2018 Kalannie NVT, topping the trial by more than 1 t/ha and generated much interest in the area where it fitted local programs.
Buff has good net form net blotch resistance (MRMS/MS) and was recently accepted into the Barley Australia Malt Accreditation program.