John Snooke may have stepped down as chairman of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s (PGA’s) Western Graingrowers committee in 2015 to focus on his family and Cunderdin farm, but his advocacy for growers’ access to the latest cropping technology remains unchanged.
Mr Snooke has been an avid supporter of GM crops, joining 18 other growers in successful large-scale on-farm trials of GM canola in 2009 and in commercial production in 2010 following regulatory approval.
Six years on, he is evaluating the latest technology – canola hybrids which allow the knockdown effect of Roundup® with the residual activity of triazine – marketed as RT®.
Mr Snooke said in a hybrid market consisting of Clearfield (CL), triazine tolerant (TT), and Roundup Ready® (RR) technologies, the new RT dual herbicide tolerant hybrids offered growers an extra tool in their integrated weed management (IWM) arsenal to combat more weeds, more often.
“Our consultant is certainly encouraging us to rotate our herbicide technologies and modes of action from a resistance perspective,” he said.
“RT technology will have a fit for us, even if there is a small yield penalty, we’d happily accept that. We’re trying not to incur massive costs in the future by way of resistant weeds. This keeps us economically sustainable.”
Mr Snooke sowed 10-hectares of Hyola 525RT alongside established varieties Hyola 404RR (400ha) and 43Y23 (150ha).
He said for an unpredictable season and rainfall dropping from their annual average of 350mm to 274mm, he was happy with yields and weed control.
“Last season was erratic to say the least. We had good autumn and winter rain then the tap turned off.
“We like to start seeding around Anzac Day and harvesting early November, but harvest was pushed back to October 25 2015, indicating a very dry finish.
“The RT was seeded to a good piece of country and on the yield maps there was no difference between 404R and it – both around the 1.4t/ha mark. Given our tight finish, it realised its potential.”
He said overall average canola yields were at 1.2t/ha and the crops “ended up very clean”.
John farms 2800-hectare Rockdale with wife Julie, daughter Savannah and parents Kerry and Beverley.
The cropping program includes barley, wheat, canola and lupins, as well as small amounts of pasture and haymaking.
Proponents of zero-till and auto steer, they run a Case tractor with a Flexi-coil airseeder on 30cm row spacing, deep banding Flexi N at seeding with fungicide, and a New Holland header with MacDon swather.
They are considering controlled traffic farming (CTF) and variable rate application, with an initial focus on fertiliser and lime.
Mr Snooke said since growing GM canola in 2010, the brassica crop has gone from a break crop to become profitable in its own right.
“The introduction of GM has definitely stepped up the profitability of canola, making it on par with wheat in terms of gross returns at our farm.”
Mr Snooke said his 2016 program was not locked in yet, but he does have an outline.
“Our rotation is variable according to economics, diseases and weeds, and our plan is evolving based on the outlook of season, but we’ll have the number of hectares of canola around 700ha.”