In a growing season the Schuster family, Freeling, expected to be one of the worst, their wheat yields ended up exceeding all expectations.
Schuster Holdings is 2200 hectares of cereal, legumes and hay production, with the fourth, fifth and sixth generation of the family all involved in the cropping enterprise.
“It was a really disastrous start to the season, it was the worst that we can remember,” Gavin Schuster said.
But, Gavin and his son Corbin believe their bumper wheat season came down to new wheat varieties, using chicken manure, a strong fungicide approach, a broad cropping rotation and residual moisture leftover from last year’s rainfall.
With a goal to continually increase yield, the Schusters switched from Mace to Scepter and Trojan.
“Mace was peaking at 6 tonnes (a hectare), these new varieties have the capabilities to throw another 2t/ha to 3t/ha on top of that if the season allows it,” Gavin said.
Corbin said it was exciting to see how far varieties had come in the past five years.
“Is it going to be possible for us in 10 years to harvest 10t/ha?” Gavin said.
Despite insuring the wheat crops for an estimated 4.5-5.5t/ha, the average wheat yield was between 5.2-7.5t/ha – reaching the same yield as 2016, despite receiving almost 800 millimetres of rainfall in 2016 and just 495mm last year.
Corbin says one key ingredient to the yield success is chicken manure.
One third of fertiliser used on the farm is a top dressing of chicken manure each year between harvest and seeding at 2.5t/ha; for the remaining two-thirds, granulated fertiliser is used in-crop.
“Since we’ve been doing that, our soil health has really improved (and) we’re able to reduce our granulated fertiliser needs because of the nutrients in the chicken manure,” Corbin said.
Another focus was on a herbicide program of an early application of Propiconazole for eyespot control and a finish of Tazer Xpert for rust control late in the season.
“On the right year we can gain a 10 per cent yield increase advantage on that because the longer you keep that green leaf on that flag leaf, it’s providing the nutrients to the seed,” Gavin said.
New variety fit for competition
THE successful growth of the Schusters’ Scepter wheat made it the perfect entrant for the annual Freeling Ag Bureau crop competition.
Competition judge Dan Vater said it looked to be a high yielding crop and one of the most even crops he saw in the competition.
“In fact, it was one of the best crops I saw in my travels all year in the season,” he said.
“There was no sign of disease in the paddock, it was a very flat and even crop, and the purity of the variety was very good.”
The crop went on to yield 7.5 tonnes a hectare.
The success of the Schusters’ wheat relies on an expansive rotation between legumes and hay, to control a variety of diseases.
The crop entered in the competition was sown on 2016’s pea ground.
“The peas could not utilise all that moisture from (2016) so there was a fair amount of residual moisture from 2016, which this (season’s) wheat crop was able to utilise,” Corbin Schuster said.