A key profitability issue for the industry is ensuring that research continues to deliver improvements in wheat quality in order to increase market share in a competitive world arena. From the farmers viewpoint, continuous yield improvement is also important. Wheat quality encompasses the suitability of particular varieties grown in certain environments for particular end uses.
Standards for harvest segregations for quality are maintained by Grain Trade Australia and are based on consumer demand. All wheat varieties in Australia have a classification based on processing and end product quality which along with a range of physical standards contributes to a marketing standard or segregation.
Segregations which account for the majority of the Victorian harvest are Australian Hard 1 minimum protein Varieties not meeting the specifications of these segregations will be received as Australian General Purpose.
Information on the varieties appropriate to each segregation is available from the Grain Trade Australia web site. The high protein wheats sought by domestic millers for traditional bread products generally come from the Mallee.
Deliveries which meet the receival specification are segregated as Vic Hard. Elsewhere, generally longer growing seasons give higher yields but also greater variability in wheat quality. Feed wheats by definition are not suitable for milling, but often have the potential for high yields when compared to milling varieties. Feed wheats are most suitable for the mm rainfall or irrigation areas. Other agronomic requirements are similar to those of the milling varieties.
Historically wheat was grown in a rotation with pastures and a period of fallow, often bare cultivated. The advent of a range of pulse and oilseed crops, favourable economic outcomes from cropping and with a deeper understanding of management of disease and fertility issues, crops are normally sown every year in the same paddock.
Rotation is now rarely used to describe cropping systems as flexibility is the key to success. Changes in crop choice can be made at sowing time based on several factors. Pulses, oilseed crops and barley offer disease breaks for many wheat diseases and indeed differing genetic backgrounds of wheat varieties sometimes allow wheat to be sown in consecutive years. Incorporation of disease resistances into wheat has also virtually eliminated some diseases, such as cereal cyst nematode, and allowed more frequent sowing of wheat.
Wide row sowing with precision guidance techniques, where crops are sown in the gaps between the crop rows from the previous season, can also allow wheat to be sown more frequently. Choice of paddock to sow wheat is therefore based on a range of issues. Economics, risk of production due to disease or weed pressures, herbicide options, seasonal forecasts, stored soil water and achieving a balance of risk with other crop types are some of the considerations which form choice of crop.
Preparation of a seedbed to ensure good seed soil contact was an important element in successful crop establishment. Minimum and no till crop production systems have however proved that a fine tilth for a seedbed is not so critical.
Advances in equipment for minimum and no till systems has incorporated sowing implements with tynes and press wheels that create furrows. The furrow harvests water into the seed row and the press wheels ensure good seed soil contact. Shared knowledge within farmer groups has led to many of the changes in farming systems and these groups are a good source of advice relevant to a particular district. Timeliness of operations is a gift that farmers owe themselves.
Seasonal variability always modifies a calendar decision, but whether the season breaks early or late, farmers need to be prepared. Every year there is a weather limit on the window of opportunity for sowing. Sowing requisites and equipment need to be ready to exploit that window. A season which breaks in April is ideal because of the opportunity to use all options.
If the 'break' is later, the same principle applies except that in an extremely late season farmers would forego sowing long season wheats. Recent experience has demonstrated the benefit of sowing a portion of the crop dry if a seasonal break has not been received by late April.
These crops germinate rapidly when rain falls and generally make the best use of limited growing season rainfall. Wheat yield and quality is an outcome determined by the genetic potential of the variety interacting with the environment. The same variety may perform differently on a different soil type and rainfall regime.
In the past, few options were available and meeting the segregations available at a local silo often determined choice of wheat variety. Farmers now have a wide choice of wheat varieties and a range of marketing options.
Individual research is required to determine the best choices. Sources of information are;. Virtually all wheat varieties are now covered by Plant Breeders Rights which means a royalty or fee is payable to the breeder or owner of that variety for each tonne of grain that a farmer produces. Collection point for the royalty or fee may differ between varieties and growers need to be aware of individual arrangements. Deep sowing may delay or stifle emergence, while shallow sowing risks seed damage from herbicide uptake.
The length of the first shoot coleoptile has a bearing on depth of sowing. If a variety is sown deeper than the natural growth extension of the coleoptile then the seedling may not emerge.
Most current varieties are derived from so called semi-dwarf lines which have shorter stems and shorter coleoptiles than older varieties. Seasonal differences in depth and availability of moisture influence decisions about depth of sowing.
A sowing depth between 25mm and 50mm, depending on soil type and available moisture, is a useful guide to sensible seed placement. In moist conditions shallower may encourage faster emergence and crop establishment. To achieve total ground cover and establish the foundation for maximum yield, a crop density of plants per square metre is needed.
Sowing rate can be calculated by knowing the seed weight, germination percentage and the required plant density. The source of seed is very important. Most farmers grow and store their own seed for use in the following year. However, when introducing a new variety or extra seed, it is sensible to source the best quality seed. If certified seed is not available, a thorough inspection for insects, weed seeds or mixed grains prior to purchase is the obvious precaution.
Seed dressings for the control of smuts and bunts should be applied to all wheat seed prior to sowing. Although major losses from these diseases are now rare, this is due to the routine use of seed treatments.
Seed not treated prior to sowing may result in yield losses as high as 85 per cent. Information on seed borne diseases managed by seed dressings is available in the Agriculture Note; Bunts and Smuts of Cereals. Farming in Britain has changed a great deal in the last 30 years. Farming used to employ a great many people in Britain but nowadays, with machinery, a few people can run a huge farm of thousands of hectares.
Agriculture provides around 60 per cent of Britain's food needs even though it employs just 1. Britain's agriculture is under pressure to change at the moment.
Farmers are under pressure to adopt more environmentally friendly methods such as organic farming. Organic farming does not use artificial chemicals that can damage the environment and human health. Its popularity has grown rapidly in recent years. Different types of farming occur in different regions of Britain. This is due to the influence of relief, climate especially precipitation and temperature , soil type and to an extent closeness to the market.
Upland areas generally lend themselves to sheep farming. Some parts of Britain have excellent soil for crops, while others are used for cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. In the north-west of England, Wales and Scotland, farmers keep cattle and sheep.
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