Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 03/12/2003, pg.19

FARMER Bill Hoare harvested a bumper wheat crop at his Jandowae property this year despite the district being in the grip of drought.

Using various farming techniques, Mr Hoare stored the few summer showers in the soil for his winter wheat, which has helped swell a national record winter grain harvest forecast to be 37.6 million tonnes.

In Queensland, the wheat crop was tipped by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics to be up 74 per cent on last year’s drought-ravaged yields, with 1 million tonnes of grain on the way to silos and export markets.

AgForce grains president Murray Jones said patchy rain had yielded good crops on parts of the western Darling Downs, while in other areas around Warwick and central Queensland it had been very dry and crops had failed.

At Tarawera, 20km east of Jandowae on the Darling Downs, Mr Hoare was among the lucky ones to be under a few showers of rain and planted 485.6ha of wheat in May.

The crop had 135mm of rain around planting time and although there was only another 20mm before harvest, it was enough for the crop to yield more than a 2.5 tonnes to the hectare, despite having no irrigation.

Mr Hoare, a fifth-generation farmer at Tarawera, has just finished harvesting 1300 tonnes of wheat to be sold to the Japanese noodle market and the domestic bread and feedgrain markets.

His secret to success is to conserve the summer rain in the soil for the winter crops by using zero tillage to preserve moisture and improve soil structure and to keep harvested paddocks covered with standing stubble to improve rain infiltration.

“After saving water all summer, once the crop is in we only need a couple of showers,” Mr Hoare said. “All the rain that has fallen we have caught. It’s not running off.”

Mr Hoare, an agronomist, also maximises returns by researching what crops to grow, based on information gathered from marketers, traders and brokers.

He chose to grow only wheat this year because at planting time, stockmarket wheat futures were strong due to record low world stockpiles of wheat.

Copyright 2003 / Courier Mail