Kangaroo Island farmers expecting bumper crops

Grain farmers on Kangaroo Island are expecting bumper crops in 2018 due to ideal conditions in winter and spring.

KI crop farmer Neil Pontifex said the crops were looking great with growing conditions perfect over the winter.

“We quite often get waterlogged in July and August with too much rain, but this year we had just enough to keep us going,” Mr Pontifex said.

Canola in particular was looking fantastic with yields as high as 3 tonnes per hectare possible, when the average yield was around 2 tonnes per hectare.

Cereals such as barley were also shaping up for a great harvest, but it did depend on some more rain to allow the grains to fill out.

Farmers had in recent years switched to Westminster variety of barley, much in demand by Coopers brewery, which matured later and needed some spring rain.

Last year, the KI famers experienced a dry spring that resulted in barley yields only of only around 6 tonnes per hectare.

“This new variety has huge potential and the ability to yield up to 9 or 10 tonnes per hectares if we get the spring rains we need,” Mr Pontifex said.

Another positive for KI farmers were the good prices expected due to the drought conditions being experienced elsewhere in Australia.

The canola harvest could begin as soon as November, while the cereal crops were typically harvested in December and January.

While the crop farmers were hoping for good spring rains to finish off their crops, KI graziers would have liked to have much more rain over the winter with pastures needing moisture. 

KI crop farmers meanwhile this month played host to a group of farmers from the Eyre Peninsula, who wanted to know about secret of the success experienced by the Island’s crop marketing arm, KI Pure Grain.

The delegation consisted of David Inglis, Adam Chilcott, Andrew Baldock, Trevor Cliff and Dean Wilmott, all from the Kimba area.

The EP delegation were shown canola and barley paddocks by KI crop farmers Neil Pontifex and Rodney Bell.

“The EP season is looking okay but not quite as good as this,” said Mr Cliff, while standing in a paddock of canola farmed by the Pontifex family near the American River turn-off on Hog Bay Road. 

The EP farmers also visited the KI Pure Grain silos on Arranmore Road, as part of their fact finding mission was looking at how KI grain was processed and stored.

Mr Pontifex said EP farmers were most interested in different storage methods, so they could keep crops such as lentils on farm or in their area for longer periods before shipping it off to Adelaide when prices were higher and transport cheaper.

Keeping their yield in their own silos meant they could control the quality and determine the timing of their marketing, he said.

KI farmers have had to overcome high transport costs by marketing their grains as a high-end product to specialty buyers, for example barley to Coopers, wheat to Arnotts biscuits and GM-free canola to the Japanese. 

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