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Cambooya grower chases top end yield

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Changes to the summer cropping program have yielded dividends for Cambooya farmer Ray Charles.

Usually a corn grower, Mr Charles moved to sorghum in recent years due to high prices for the versatile grain and problems with dead corn grain.

A more recent change was adding a new long maturity sorghum variety - MR-Apollo - to the mix last season that went on to yield 11.837 tonnes per hectare at harvest in late-February. It was irrigated twice.

Mainstay hybrid MR-Buster came in at 10t/ha on some irrigated red soil country.

The impressive result makes him a strong contender for the irrigated sorghum category at the 2017 Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland (RASQ) Queensland Country Life Grains Outlook crop competition – taken out this year by Perry Farming, ‘Thologolong’, Brookstead, with 11.431t/ha.

The grower said both varieties had a fit depending on the needs of the farmer and the conditions.

“MR-Buster offers wide adaptability and high yield traits, while MR-Apollo hits those top end yields provided it is sown to good country,” he said.

“Apollo’s appearance is impressive, with a nice colour and very big grain size.

“Its stem and stalk is really bulky compared to other sorghums – it’s like comparing a Brahman to a Jersey.”

Mr Charles runs cropping operation ‘Wyndella’ with wife Jenny, son Jason and daughter-in-law Emma.

Growing winning crops is not new to the family, taking home the 2016 RASQ sunflower prize as well as overall champion crop.

Asked what his secret to growing a bumper crop was, the grower said ‘sometimes things just go right’.

Though, plenty of nutrients and a mild season definitely help.

“I never skimp on anything. If I get a soil test back and it needs a certain amount of NPK, I put more than the recommended amount on.

“We’ve bumped up the nitrogen in sorghum the last few seasons to equal corn, going to about four bags of urea per acre. Fertiliser is still around 120kg/ha.

“It was what you would call a mild year – a lot better than two years ago in the heat and dry.”

They crop sorghum and corn in summer and mostly wheat in winter, with the odd opportunity crop like chickpeas added in depending on price or weed burden. Mungbeans were sown for the first time this year.

“We usually do two to three years of sorghum then switch to winter crop, which allows us to spray because Johnsongrass is a problem here.”

Mr Charles said they have also increased productivity by splitting summer into two segments.

“A lot of the time we wait for rain to plant, till November, but now we’ve come to the conclusion that we plant October and water it up. That allows us to split summer into two – sowing corn or sorghum early and either soybeans or mungbeans later.”

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