A TRIAL plot of canola sown in Dalby has produced mixed results, yielding a disappointing one tonne per hectare but still holding the promise of becoming an important ‘break’ crop for the Downs region. Traditionally regarded as a southern crop, the development of shorter season varieties more suited to low to medium winter rainfall zones means canola is steadily making its way northwards.

Cliff Weier, together with partner, Sharron Henry and children, Tegan and Karl, grow about 1500 ha of sorghum, wheat and chickpeas each year on a number of properties based around ‘Fairview’, 24 km west of Dalby. This year they added 42 ha of the DuPont Pioneer Clearfield varieties, 44Y84, 44Y85 and 44Y86 to the program.

“I really like the idea of canola as a means of adding another crop to our rotation as a disease break, while the Clearfield technology provides another way of cleaning up our weeds,” he says. “We sowed in mid-April and got really good emergence and establishment. It was a really good-looking crop with lots of flowers and pods.”

However, a once-in-a-decade cold snap in late August put paid to his hopes. “It was as bad as it gets,” Cliff says. “We had three mornings of minus six degrees which really knocked the canola and chickpeas around.”

The three plots yielded between one and 1.3 t/ha when they were direct headed in early October. Cliff says he’s disappointed but not disillusioned. “We only got half the yield we were expecting but I don’t think it was a failure,” he says. “We’ll put some more in next year and give it another go.”

Cliff’s wheat and barley crops appear to have been spared any ill effects from the frost and he is expecting yields of three to four tonnes per hectare once harvesting starts this week using a high capacity CLAAS LEXION 750 combine harvester.

It features the unique separation and threshing technology and tracked undercarriage that have made CLAAS the world leader on the harvesting stage. “CLAAS Harvest Centre Dalby provided a demonstration for us a couple of years ago and I was blown away by the clean sample - it was truly astonishing,” Cliff says. “There’s nearly three times as much working area between the front and back as a single rotor machine. The amount of wheat it was able to strip in such a short time was incredible, but it was the tracks that really sold us. They have almost no footprint and they fit into our controlled traffic program so well. It really was a case of, ‘How much for the trade-in and where do we sign?”

Cliff has harvested about 12,000 tonnes of winter cereals and 15,000 tonnes of sorghum since taking delivery of the new machine in September last year. “We had a pretty good idea of what we were going to get, but it’s even better than we expected,” he says. “We are peaking at about 65 tonnes an hour in cereals and up to 95 tonnes an hour in sorghum, even with stay green varieties which are a lot harder to thresh.”

Cliff is rapt with the smooth ride delivered by the tracked undercarriage, which features hydraulic suspension and automatic levelling. “The tracks mean we can operate a wide front at high speed without knocking the machine around,” Cliff says.

“Our tramlines can become quite rough by the end of the season. We are averaging 1.5 crops per year, which means we are moving over each paddock up to ten times each year.” The tracks also deliver an impressive road speed of 40 km/hour. “We farm a number of blocks and we still do a bit of contract harvesting, so road speed is important,” he says. “Last year, I was following a wheeled machine down the highway and it was bouncing around all over the place.”

Cliff has nothing but praise for the staff at CLAAS Harvest Centre Dalby. “They have a great attitude and so do the staff at Landpower and CLAAS itself,” he says. “It’s never a problem to call someone and ask for advice. CLAAS takes such pride in what they do. Some manufacturers work on the idea of ‘fix when fails’ whereas CLAAS is always making improvements.”

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