The 2008 southern Cape Super Canola Farmer of the Year Andrew Beukes, explains his strategy for growing canola on sloping land and how he harvests it over lucerne. He managed to achieve a yield of 2,4t/ha of canola and a gross margin of R7 337/ha in a particularly difficult season. He tells Wouter Kriel how.
Andrew Beukes is the southern Cape Super Canola Farmer of the Year 2008. The season was a difficult one for most farmers, with late rain resulting in seed sowed early taking up to 70 days to germinate. Fields that came up too sparsely were resown, leading to a dense crop later in the season.Ryegrass also germinated later than usual and didn’t respond well to herbicide treatment. Drought affected several producers who subsequently withdrew from the competition. Then November rain delayed harvest by up to two weeks.
Beating the odds
Despite these conditions, Andrew achieved a canola yield of 2,4t/ha – against an industry average of 1,3t/ha – and a gross margin of R7 337/ha, making him the entrant with the highest yield and also the largest gross margin. He’s no stranger to canola achievements, being the 2005 winner and 2006 runner-up in the Super Canola competition.He farms on Vrede, a 1 400ha mixed crop and sheep farm between Botrivier and Caledon on the N2 highway in the Western Cape. He ascribes his success to precision farming and sufficient nitrogen application. Canola represents a third of the crops planted on Vrede, and the others are wheat, barley oats and lucerne. Andrew also runs a flock of 2 500 Dohne Merinos. “The 300ha of canola I grow annually helps manage herbicide-resistant weeds like ryegrass, and establishes well with lucerne,” he explains.
He broadcasts lucerne at 15kg/ha and canola at 4kg/ha, together with 45kg/ha of urea at the same time. Canola ensures income for the first year, when lucerne can’t be harvested, and lucerne ensures income for the next five years. Canola grows much taller than lucerne so it’s possible to harvest it over growing lucerne. The canola is cut under the seed pods about 30cm above the ground and left lying on the tough stalks, resulting in a canopy of pods. Harvesting is then done at a slightly lower level to compensate for the seed pods setting lower down.
Other benefits of canola
Canola disrupts the lifecycle of some wheat pests and combats diseases to improve subsequent wheat yield on the same land. Andrew’s long-term wheat yield average is 3,3t/ha and he notes it’s higher on lands after canola than after a medics crop. The winning canola land yielded 4,88t of wheat in 2006. He tills the soil, either with a plough or a thrash field span, depending on the rainfall. He applies glyphosate and dimethoate and 1â„“ of simazine per hectare as a pre-sowing spray. Simazine is a broadleaf grass herbicide similar to atrazine, but it can be applied at a lower volume. This is important because the farm has steep inclines and a heavy rain spell could leach the herbicide into lower lands, destroying other crops. “I know, because it once happened to me,” says Andrew.
Andrew broadcasts Thunder TT canola seed with 45kg/ha urea and treated with Soygro’s canola pack for a range of trace elements. Sown seeds is covered using a harrow. A second herbicide spray is applied before the canola forms a dense canopy. Andrew uses Atrazine, sprayed at 2â„“/ha, predominantly for ryegrass control and Demit, at 500ml/ha, for insects. When a good canopy is established, he sprays a foliar feed of Spoor-en-Boor and 15kg/ha of KNO3. He adds another insecticide spray, Mosfila, to the application, as well as 30kg/ha of urea at this stage. Once the canola flowers Andrew applies a final top dressing of 30kg/ha of urea. He splits the fertiliser application into two separate applications because nitrogen is easily leached from the soil and on steep inclines rain could leach the top fertiliser. Nitrogen application totals 105kg/ha for a season.
Bollworm is a something Andrew keeps close tabs on. If it appears he sprays the entire crop with Syphos. Snails and cut worm are serious pests, but Andrew believes because he tills the land he doesn’t encounter these pests. The canola is cut when between 40% to 60% of it has coloured, and the seed is harvested when the moisture content on the lands is at 10%. His Merino flock feeds on leftover seed. “Due to the high protein content it’s good for overall conditioning,” says Andrew. He uses precision farming to ensure all his lands are balanced in terms of soil chemistry and his farm is mapped with one test pit per hectare. Ph and phosphate correction is done every five years by a contractor who uses GPS technology to even out variations.
Contact André Beukes on (028) 284 9738. |fw