Brothers Mal and Chris McMaster farm at ‘Binnia’, a 607 hectare property located at the southern end of the North West Slopes and Plains.
The family has farmed the property since settlement, with the McMaster name the only surname to have ever graced the land titles.
Mal and Chris run a dryland cropping enterprise, typically comprising one-third summer cropping, one-third winter cropping and a third for fallow.
Sorghum is sown in the summer cropping program and the winter program has traditionally included wheat, barley and oats, however in recent years’ rotation the program has consisted of chickpeas and occasionally canola.
The minimum tillage operation produces average yields of 6 t/ha for sorghum and 4.5 t/ha for wheat, in what is a 686 millimetre average rainfall belt.
In recent years, the brothers have been increasing their grain storage capacity in a bid to hold all harvested grain on-farm.
Mal said concerns over the direction of their traditional bulk storage handling and marketing avenue led them to the decision to increase their grain storage.
“Our current on-farm storage capacity is 500 tonnes in silos, which is just about to increase to 900 tonnes with the addition of three new silos,” Mal said.
“We’re hoping to hold all grain on-farm now, so we can market at our own pace and not have to use the traditional channels.
“Basically, with this approach, we are trying to avoid having to deliver to the bulk handler at harvest, but rather take control of marketing it ourselves and maximise grain prices.
“We don’t do a lot of forward selling, although we did forward sell some sorghum last year, but anything that is locked-in is done so on the conservative side.”
Mal said their approach to pest management in their grain storage was proactive rather than reactive and, subsequently, they were yet to have any pest outbreaks.
He said they previously hadn’t stored grain for long periods, so had been using phosphine tablets for grain protection.
“We have always been quite fanatical about cleaning after emptying the silos as well.”
Mal said they worked closely with their local CRT Agronomist, Ed Blackburn from Haynes Farm and Hardware at Coolah, who recommended they try Conserve™ for protecting their longer stored grain.
He said they had used the grain protectant for the past two years, predominately on barley.
Conserve Plus, from Dow AgroSciences, has two active ingredients (s-methoprene and spinosad) and must be mixed with an organophosphate to control all major insect pests of stored grain, including the resistant lesser grain borer.
It provides up to nine months of control and, with a nil withholding period, maximises grain marketing flexibility.
“We apply it through the auger, from a quad bike with a tank on the back, so it makes it a very easy process,” Mal said.
“While withholding periods haven’t been an issue, it is good to know that it isn’t an issue if we need to move grain at short notice.”
How long they hold the grain for will depend on the second crop coming through, so Mal said it would likely be moved on within six months.
Ed said Conserve Plus had grown in popularity with growers throughout the region since 2013.
He said issues with lesser grain borer were common, especially given the pests’ resistance to other products.
“As such, we’re having some absolute debacles in terms of damage of stored grain,” Ed said.
“Many of the on-farm storages around our district are unsealed and also don’t have aeration, meaning a complete fumigation and lowering the temperature is often not possible, and now that dichlorvos has been banned, guys with infested grain and old silos have nowhere to go when they come across an infestation.”
He said the age and condition of many on-farm storage facilities, coupled with the closure of many local receival sites, had made the pest issue more widespread.
“Being able to put Conserve Plus on grain for not much more cost than a product like Reldan™ pluS IGR is a godsend for many.’’
“We have also been trying to get growers more proactive with silo hygiene, the use of Dryacide® as a surface treatment and monitoring grain as part of the plan.
“The results to date with Conserve have been as good as anyone could hope for, with no reported infestations of any grain that has been treated,’’ Ed said.
For further information on Conserve Plus, growers can contact Haynes Farm and Hardware on (02) 6377 1005 or their nearest CRT store.