New Zealand Real Results farmer trials Revysol


Fifteen UK farmers won a place on BASF’s Innovation Tour to New Zealand after “scanning their cans” of Adexar and Librax last growing season. The group was made up of farmers from all over England, Wales and Scotland, including six participants from the 50 Real Results farms in the UK. One of the South Island visits was to Blair Drysdale.

Blair Drysdale farms with his wife near Balfour, in Southland, New Zealand having recently bought out his parents from the business. Arable farming has seen a resurgence in the area over the past 10 years but is still dominated by dairying following a mass migration of many milk producers from the North Island during the late 1990s and 2000s.

Blair’s enterprises combine wheat, barley, tulips for bulbs (land leased to a Dutch company), beef and sheep, He supplies grain to the local merchant for feed the local dairy market.

Prior to focusing on arable production, Blair had a livestock-based business with 3,000 ewes and 150-head of beef cattle. They now have 150ha of cereals, 65ha of grazing for dairy heifers, 40ha of beef, 25-30ha of tulips and the rest of the ground is laid down to grass for around 1,500 trading lambs per season and some beef. He and his wife have just bought out Blair’s parents, which they did in two stages, half around 19 years ago, the rest this year.

The rotation is pasture, tulips (last week April, harvested last week Jan), followed by three (soon to be two) years of winter wheat, two years of barley, then forage rape (winter lambs grazed) eaten off, then into grass for 6-8 months and tulips again.

Trials – quite noticeable on barley how good a job Revysol has done in controlling Ramularia and also for Septoria control in the wheat in what has been a high-pressure, wet year. Blair said that Revysol will be very welcome following sensitivity shifts in triazoles, strobilurins and one of the SDHIs.

In New Zealand farmers don’t use chlorothalonil on grain destined for animal feed, but it can be used on milling wheat.

Weeds – brome is a problem and there is SU herbicide resistance in chickweed, which became an issue in two years.

He has a 25m sprayer with a 32k litre tank and uses water volume of 200l/ha to get the coverage.

At present he bales the straw, but when he changes his combine he’ll chop and incorporate to preserve the soil organic matter. “I don’t like dragging it off, and it costs NZ$18-19 to bale.” Straw market is fickle, dairy farmers have cottoned on to the fact that the arable farmers will stick a torch to the bales if it’s not sold and they have no fibre for the winter.

This year he’s had 250mm of rain and they are usually 85mm. Farming at field capacity this spring, has meant he hasn’t been able to get in with his last application of N onto his wheat, because it is such free draining soil, it will just disappear.

Free market price for barley NZ$430/t driven by local market requirements as feed for dairy herds locally, costs of transport NZ$55-60 to get to Canterbury. Contract price NZ$390 for wheat and barley. Costs of production, NZ$1,200/ha. A little bit more on wheat.

Land price in the area NZ$30k/ha. He describes this as “nuts!”

Blair Drysdale’s agronomy in detail

Soils and nutrient status

The soil type on the cereal area is Croxton silt loams, some of the better soils in the country, hence the interest from bulb growers to grow on the farm. The pH range is a consistent 6-6.2, and soil fertility is good with Olson P levels on a 150 sampler are 20, Quick Test K is 8-9 and sulphur is 10.

Barley agronomy

The barley variety is Surge drilled on 1 April at 100kg/ha – it’s a ‘true winter’ type, a relatively recent adoption to this area of New Zealand because of their long growing season. Historically, farmers in the area would have routinely sown spring barley varieties in the autumn. The problem with this approach has been the disease pressure that comes in, mainly Ramularia but also scald. The ‘true winters’ need a robust fertiliser and PGR regime to yield.

Blair describes Surge as a lazy variety over the winter which then “goes nuts” in the spring.

At GS26 it had a fungicide and PGR – 1l/ha of Opus + 1.5l/ha of Cycocel. At GS30 it had a Cycocel + Moddus PGR. At GS50 (27 October) it had another fungicide application of 1.25l/ha of Imtrex, 400ml/ha of Proline and 1l/ha of Terpal. One the 1 Dec It had a third fungicide – 1.5l/ha pf Imtrex and 600ml/ha of Proline and 6 units of liquid N (like a shot of coffee in the morning to keep it going!), this isn’t a routine application, but one that Blair applied because it’s been a wet season, the crop is still green and this final boost of fungicide and fertiliser will keep the roots and green leaf going.

He expects it to yield 9.5-10t/ha. At harvest, if he has to burn off the barley, he applies 4l/ha of 480 RoundUp to prevent the build-up of resistance. Last year was very dry so the crop senesced very early, this year it looks like a very different season.

Wheat agronomy

His wheat drillings are dominated by the variety Impress, which Blair describes as idiot proof. It was drilled at 125kg/ha on 19 April, he opted for a higher seed rate because of elevated slug pressure.

At GS30 5 Oct it had 2l/ha of epoxiconazle + prochloraz and Cycocel. On the 7 November it had Pheonix + Stellar (Folpet + epoxiconazle) on the headlands, and the main part of the field included Imtrex within the tank mix. At GS60 it had its last fungicide 1.25l/ha Imtrex + 600ml/ha Proline. Some growers are applying a T00 immediately post winter, to keep a clean bottom and to stop Septoria climbing up the plant.

Fertiliser regime

Fertiliser applications have been similar for barley and wheat, at around GS28 the crops had 110kg/ha Sustain Ammo 36 N (39 units N and 10 units of sulphur). At the end of tillering, on 15 September, they had 325kg of N (150 units). On the 10 September they had 110kg/ha of DAP. Plus, since then the barley has 19 units of N, 20 units of P and one unit of sulphur. Going into the autumn all crops had 150kg/ha of MOP and 300kg/ha of Super 10.

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