‘No-till Bill’ gives new Havoc wheat the tick of approval


WA agronomist and no-till advocate Bill Crabtree is always on the lookout for innovative practices and products to implement on-farm, and the 2018 season was no different, with the grower running a wheat variety trial which put new wheat variety Havoc up against his mainstays.

Bill and his wife Monique have been growing wheat at their 2800ha home block north east of Morawa since buying it in 2007, and when they added a 2800ha lease block at Morawa in March 2018, it seemed like the perfect proving ground for the crops.

He planted 250kg each of Havoc, Scepter and Corack over 11 plots, which were 1.4km in length.

“We planted one variety, missed two plots then planted another variety, missed two plots, then planted the last variety. Someone didn’t do the forth rep on the Scepter, but the statistician would say that’s no big deal,” he said.

Mr Crabtree said the main drawcard of Havoc was the crop maturity.

“The idea is that Havoc is a punchy, quick variety.

“I like its chunkiness at the end and I like its shorter maturity, because here it started raining on May 24 (2018) and it stopped on August 26 (2018), and that was only an 8mm event. Having a short season variety is a handy thing to have where I farm.”

Mr Crabtree said when it came time to harvest the trial, Havoc also impressed with yield.

“Each rep was returning the same average yield of 2-2.1t/ha. Havoc averaged 2.30t/ha, Corack averaged 2.02t/ha and Scepter averaged 1.83t/ha.

“For Havoc, that’s a nice round 25pc above Scepter and 10pc above Corack. 25pc over Scepter on a long replicated, four rep trial plot – that is a huge result for Havoc and the NVT at Morawa showed a similar, but less dramatic result. That’s an excellent yield for 160mm of growing season rainfall and with only 62mm in January (2019).”

Havoc is bred by LongReach Plant Breeders, marketed by Pacific Seeds, and is now free to trade farmer-to-farmer.

Havoc also has improved powdery mildew resistance (MS) over Mace and Scepter to reduce disease build up in lower canopies.

“Every year up here I have had powdery mildew, especially in the Corack. The warm weather comes in from the coast and on one July afternoon we can get a mid-level come down and it drops all the spores from the Geraldton coast line and within a week my whole farm can be sprayed with powdery mildew spores.”

Considering the maturity and yield of Havoc, and the fact that it is AH while Corack is APW, he will be replacing Corack with Havoc.

The Crabtree home block and leased farm are located on the eastern fringe of the agricultural zone in 305mm annual average rainfall. The properties have acidic sub-soil pH.

Given the typical low rainfalls in August and September in this region, exploiting water and nutrients in the sub soil is very important for grain filling and optimising crop yield potential. This is why an ongoing liming program is a major farm activity.

“It was almost a fallow in 2017 and the previous leasers probably applied 50kg/ha of DAP as we did in 2018. They had 200mm of summer rains in 2017 which may not have all been used as the crop only emerged in August in 2017. In this region it is hard to get soil organic carbons above 0.5pc.

“The crop in 2017 went about 50kg/ha. I don’t think it got down to the summer moisture, so I reckon there was probably 50mm stored, then I had 60mm in January this year (2019) which probably equated to another 20mm stored.

“So 20mm plus 50mm is 70mm, then plus 160mm, that’s 230mm, take off 100mm for evaporation, that’s 130mm, multiply by 18kg/mm and it’s right up there.

“In 2018, it got 50kg/ha DAP and 50kg/ha of urea, which is not a lot. But it is beautiful loam that allows the nitrogen to be in the soil.”

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Featured Image: Bill Crabtree tested new Havoc wheat in a large-scale farm trial. Image courtesy of Pacific Seeds

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