Graze and grain canola experiment - Farmer shows faith in unusual seed choice

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James Madden has farmed in many different environments, from Lockhart where he grew up, to Canada and Saudi Arabia early in his career.

CERTAIN crops sown in low rainfall areas have been shown to provide strong returns for farmers, even changing the operation of some properties.

CERTAIN crops sown in low rainfall areas have been shown to provide strong returns for farmers, even changing the operation of some properties.

Now based at a 1000ha property in the low rainfall area of Urana, the grower and owner of James Madden Consulting understands the limitations of his soil.

Nevertheless, with the introduction of zero-till and the new technology that followed, he is able to do more with his paddocks.

“Direct drilling and chemicals have just changed the whole thing.  The number one thing you’ve got to do is conserve moisture.  I haven’t burned stubble for 15 years,” Mr Madden said.

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Last season he even planted graze and grain canola – a variety of the oilseed which is usually reserved for the higher rainfall zones of southern Australia where vernalisation is more reliable.

“I got told ‘don’t grow it out there, it probably won’t flower’. I sowed it very early so it had enough of a vernalisation period to make it flower.”

Mr Madden planted 100ha of Hyola 970CL in March alongside 350ha of a regular hybrid variety on a long fallowed paddock.

Sure enough, it was one of the wettest winters he had seen - Urana received 207mm of rain during 2016.

URANA grower James Madden has been testing the limits of his property thanks to the introduction of zero-till and the new technology that followed.

URANA grower James Madden has been testing the limits of his property thanks to the introduction of zero-till and the new technology that followed.

Having no livestock to graze it, the grower took it through for grain at 2t/ha and 45 per cent oil.

“It was double the amount of grain compared to the other canola I grew,” he said.

Some of his clients have tested its dual potential, boosting the profitability of their sheep enterprise.

“I’ve got some clients who grew it and they’ve got sheep. They grazed it and they reckon they made about $288/ha out of grazing. That was their first go at it. It changes people’s farming operation.  

“You sow it in March, there’s a certain amount of canola in and done. And it’s already up and going and takes the pressure off the rest your operation. If you’ve got a big operation, that helps.  

“Plus it’s a Clearfield.”

He has used triazine tolerant and Roundup Ready canola in the past, but prefers Clearfield for its residual effect and vigour.

The crop of Hyola 970CL, which has a unique ‘H’ blackleg rating, was also very clean, with no sign of infection.