Its planting season – our Young Farming Champions have got their big toys out to grow the food that feeds us.

Three generations of Family Fox have been supplying Australians with nutritious delicious grains for decades

♫ ♫ There’s work to be done; You had a good go;

The tractor is ready; there is plenty to sow;

This year’s the year; With good looking ground;

And I’m feeling good; As I make my way round ♫♫

As Sara Storer tells us in her song Beautiful Circle this year’s the year. The drought that has plagued our cropping families for too long relinquished some its grip at the beginning of 2020 and our Young Farming Champions are rejoicing: It’s planting time!

“What an incredible start to the winter cropping program,” Emma Ayliffe says. “Talking to some of the older guys it is the best start they have seen in over ten years at Lake Cargelligo.”

“Planting 2020 has been a very welcome change to the past few seasons,” Dan Fox says, “with great opening rains allowing us to seed into great moisture and get very good herbicide knockdowns on all the weeds that have germinated.”

“Thanks to general rains that we received over March and April,” Marlee Langfield says, “and most recently just shy of 60mm in the last two days, we are embarking on the most confident start to the winter cropping season since Andrew and I have been ‘at it’ (farming)!”

Marlee has created a 4 day photo journal of planting in this series of beautiful photos of new life 

Working in conjunction with her partner’s family Emma will plant 5000 hectares of crop, with lupins, canola, oats and lucerne already in the ground. Their major crop, wheat, will be sown from ANZAC day, along with a smaller amount of barley. “We have 80-90% of our soil profile of moisture which is setting us up really well,” she says. “We will also be busy with weed and integrated pest management (a few bugs getting around already) and are hoping for good rain to allow us to push our crops and do some top dressing with nitrogen mid-winter. Then it will be all go for harvest in October/November.”

Further south Dan, and three generations of his family, are planting a multitude of crops. “We have finished sowing our faba bean/canola companion crop, which is designed to reduce our artificial inputs for both crops, as well as our early malt barley, which has been companioned with vetch, field peas and tillage radish for the beneficial interactions they bring,” he says. “We have also planted a paddock of multi species cover crop that we are hoping to put our lambs on next week, which will be a smorgasbord for them. Then it is fingers crossed for no breakdowns as we roll into the busy time of early May.” Phew, busy in May? What do you call April, Dan?

Its takes some serious machinery to keep this country food secure 

The air seeder (planter) is running hot outside Cowra where Marlee and Andrew are at it, planting 750ha of wheat, barley, canola and chickpeas. “Chickpeas do a wonderful job at fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere back in the soil,” she says, “which our other rotations will appreciate and make use of in future years.” The boom spray is also getting a work out applying pre and post-emergent sprays to control weeds and pests and it will be used later in the year for in-crop sprays. “If the season permits, fertiliser will be spread (topdressing) during the winter months to promote plant growth and in an effort to increase yield. Come October and the warmer weather the windrower will be ready to cut the canola and hot on the heels of this will be the header, busy harvesting all the different crops till about Christmas. We plan to make hay from some of the cereal crops and harvest the grains, oilseed and chickpeas for animal and human consumption.”

2020 rain is giving Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield the perfect opportunity to use her new airseeder to grow safe, affordable, nutritous food for Australian families  

As always, our farmers will be keeping an eye on the weather. Marlee had no ‘moisture in the soil bank’ due to the dry summer and knows there is still a long way to go to harvest, even now that recent rain has interrupted sowing and kept her off the paddocks for a couple of days.

We wish all our cropping Young Farming Champions favourable weather, timely rain, low bug populations and bumper crops for 2020.

For those wanting to know about the technical side of cropping watch this extraordinary video from Onus Agronomy of the Zell Family’s 214ft Airseeder (worlds largest planter) in action

or if you’d rather kick back and listen to Sara Storer’s Beautiful Circle you can do so here.

Little bit of history on the development of planing machines can be found here and an Australian farmer’s story here