Monday, 3 February 2014

A visit with Dryland Farmer Hugh Wigley

 I continued to travel south down state highway 1 and meet up with an old friend who I worked with in Western Australia 16 years ago who runs a gorse spraying business in Waimate. It was great to catch up and see him again. We had a drive around the area and saw some farmers harvesting oilseed rape, we stopped by and I arranged to visit the farmer in the morning.
A Felfie near Timaru, New Zealand
I visited Hugh Wigley  the next  morning, I wanted to talk to farmers in this area as it was a dryland area, ie no irrigation. Hugh was farming 1100 acres of wheat, barley, oilseed rape and ryegrass, the ryegrass was the most profitable crop, and 90 % of the grain would need to be dried. The similarities to the Uk were apparent, so how do their crop yields compare to the UK?  Average wheat yields were 8.5 T/Ha, which is very similar to home, this was reassuring after talking about yields of 15T/ha and wondering what we have been doing wrong. It also validated my thoughts that being able to control the water available to a crop through irrigation leads to a huge uplift in yield potential.  Especially as the general agronomic husbandry is very similar except lower amounts of nitrogen and less fungicides are applied, because the nitrogen utilisation is lower in a dryland situation and also the later T4 fungicide is generally not needed as the crop is starting to naturally ceness rather than being kept alive by a late irrigation.
Hugh Wigley
Having said this there was a centre pivot irrigator installed in the centre of Hugh’s farm, this was more as a strategic investment than an immediate need. It was the last time that water would be made available in the area and it could lead to more options in the future. It was only used to apply 30mm this season, compared  to over 200mm further north in Mid Canterbury.   
Hugh burnt all his wheat straw as there wasn’t a demand for wheat straw, it helped with grass weed management and also reduces time and horsepower required to run the farm. Only 2 small (110hp and 130hp) tractors were used to establish all the crops.
Hugh had various ways to dry the grain, from flat stores to silos with stirrers, and also a truck with a drying floor. The truck would be loaded up in the winter time and warm air blown through the false floor until the grain was dried. It was an example of how Kiwi farmers have learnt to be resourceful simply because New Zealand is so far from other parts of the world.
Hugh's grain drying truck

After leaving Hugh's I kept heading south in the search of a record breaking Shropshire lad. It always takes longer to get from A to B in NZ than planned as there are lots of places to stop and while away a few moments. 
Moaraki Boulders

A typical northern Otago View

No comments:

Post a Comment