Father and son team see exceptional canola yields: Pacific Seeds

Father and son
cropping team Derek and Reece Curwen saw exceptional yields from some of their
crops at the end of last year, despite a tough start to the season and a 60mm
deficit in annual rainfall at their South Stirling property.

Derek, his
wife Kim, and Reece run 8,500 hectare mixed operation “Figtree Farm” in the
southern coastal region of Western Australia.

They crop canola,
barley and wheat on 6,500ha and run 10,000 Merino ewes on the remaining 2,000ha.

Derek said their 2014 season was less than ideal due to the season not
breaking until May and rainfall totalling 360 millimetres; well short of their
annual average of 420mm.

“It was one of our toughest starts in quite a few years – hard on
livestock and hard on crops,” Mr Curwen said.

“Then we experienced a very dry winter with the exception of a 50mm
fall. August and September were dry,
then we had a big rain in mid-October which really helped the canola.”

Despite the late break to the season and lack of regular rainfall, the
quality was still evident in the late-sown crop.

Mr Curwen said
their 3,000 hectare canola crop was one of the best, yielding up to 2.6 tonnes
per hectare in parts.

“The canola
yielded exceptionally well for the circumstances due to that late rain in
October. The clear winner was a
Clearfield variety planted in one of our better rainfall zones.”

The extensive
program featured Hyola 577CL, Hyola 404RR, GT-50, 44Y24, ATR Stingray, Thumper
TT and Jackpot TT.

Mr Curwen said
by planting a mix of Clearfield, Roundup Ready and conventional varieties, they
could keep their options open and be less vulnerable to herbicide resistance.

Clearfield
played a significant role in 2014 due to a large radish burden.

“We are seeing
limited Group B resistance, so in that scenario we can still grow some of that
chemistry on selected country. The use
of chaff carts within the Clearfield rotation allows us to manage radish weed
seed effectively.”

Come harvest
in late November, Mr Curwen said their harvesting methods were a “mixed bag”.

“We usually swathe canola, but we direct headed some and desiccated the
Roundup Ready crops due to their thickness.”

Derek and
Reece usually run the operation by themselves in the downtime, but hire up to
12 staff during the “hectic” seeding and harvest periods.

Derek said his
son is more than just the cropping manager nowadays – he does practically
everything.

“He’ll take
over the whole place one day.”

Reece has been
on-farm four years. Prior to that, he
was a grain marketing advisor for two years following the completion of a six-year
double degree in agriculture and economics at UWA.

He is going to
make the most of the two months before seeding starts, heading off to travel the
world after he was awarded a prestigious 2015 Nuffield Scholarship last year.

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