18 January 2023

Grenfell growers are top of the crops after a challenging year

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Rob Taylor (third from left) with wife Mandy and judges at the Dryland Field Wheat competition finals. Photo: Supplied.

Grenfell wheat growers Rob and Mandy Taylor are celebrating back-to-back success in the statewide wheat competition, despite a year of deluges and potential threats.

The AgShows NSW annual Dryland Wheat competition is judged across four regions. Five top crops are identified in each region by a judging panel and then compared to determine a state winner.

The competition is hotly contested and a win highly valued, although the Taylors said that after a year in which all sorts of records were set – both good and bad – their primary response to the win was surprise.

The couple runs a mixed-farming operation on Glenalla at Grenfell, north of Young on the South West Slopes.

Rob said after the win that the crop had required the highest financial output on record.

“We had some good crops but I thought there would be others in front so it was quite a shock,” he said.

“We’ve spent a lot of money this year, there’s no doubt about that. Fertiliser prices are through the roof and we spent a lot on fungicide so it’s high input, high output.

“The win is certainly rewarding because it’s definitely been the most expensive crop I’ve ever grown.”

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Grenfell usually receives 600mm of rain annually but in 2022 was hit with a whopping 1030mm.

But both well-drained deep-red soils and that significant investment in managing the crop were in their favour. That good management meant a successful harvest for the crop, which went 7.3t/ha, scoring them 218 in the central zone competition.

“We got our timing of our fungicide spot on and we were fortunate that it dried up at the right time because we could have had a disastrous finish otherwise,” Rob said.

“What also really helped us this year was having controlled traffic tramlines. That made the paddocks more accessible and we could get on them to apply fungicides because there’s a lot of disease pressure this year with all the wet weather.”

The win has been a turn-up for the books in more ways than one. Farmers around Young, Cootamundra, Wallendbeen and Harden have frequently been winners in the past but the wildly varying weather has disrupted the usual results, paradoxically giving farmers in drier regions better opportunities.

Frank McRae – one of the state’s foremost agronomists and judge of the Dryland Field competition – told About Regional last year that the field was wide open.

“It’s been a challenging growing season with too much of a good thing in the way of rainfall and localised flooding on some growers’ land, but it’s certainly levelled the playing field,” Mr McRae said.

“The wheat competition is generally a yield-based competition, but if a grower has made the best of the local season with good management practices, they can expect a strong performance in this year’s competition.”

The Taylors were announced at the state final in Dubbo this week, attended by the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Western NSW Dugald Saunders.

They had topped the central region with a point score of 218 for their 7.3t/ha, ahead of Keith and Kate Perrett in Gunnedah (7.1t/ha, 215pts) and Plantation Trading in Premer (6.4t/ha, 198pts).

The central region covers Alectown, Binnaway, Canowindra, Carcoar, Coolah, Coonabarabran, Cowra, Cudal, Cumnock, Dubbo, Dunedoo, Eugowra, Forbes, Grenfell, Gulgong, Gunnedah, Manildra, Mendooran, Merriwa, Molong, Parkes, Premer, Quandialla, Quirindi, Spring Ridge, Tambar Springs, Tamworth, Wellington, Werris Creek, Wirrinya, Woodstock and Yeoval.

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