Importance of soil tests

  • Topics: Science
  • Pages: 7
  • Words: 1824
  • Date added: May 4, 2020

Soil tests play an important part in achieving an outstanding crop and yield. Farmers gather the information received from the tests and determine what nutrients are lacking so that they can then add them to the soil using the correct rate of fertilizer. The fertiliser is applied to the soil to increase the nutrient levels to the required level for the crop that is to be sown. Soil testing also allows you to not over fertilise your soil saving you money and time from not putting out what you don’t need.

We employ an agronomist to come out to our farm and perform a soil test. The agronomist then analyses the results of the test and advises what rates and types of fertilizer to apply to each paddock. It is important that we do this so that we can maximize and enhance the yield and quality potential of our wheat crops. High protein wheat is more valuable when it is sold so by enhancing our quality and grade this will make the crop more profitable.

Therefore, soil tests are important because they identify what farmers need to do and change in their crop preparation to ensure that they can get the most from their land and crop.

Fertilizer requirements

From the soil test you are able to analyse and determine the nutrient levels in the soil such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, calcium, Magnesium and Chloride. From the test results you will then be able to decide what fertilisers you will require to apply to your crop / paddock to achieve the maximum yield possible with increased protein levels for a higher sale value for the grain.

As an example, Urea is a fertiliser that is sourced and used when there is not enough nitrogen in the soil.

Lime increases the pH of the soil bringing the soil levels to the ideal pH which is in the range of 6-7 .This increases root growth of the wheat plant and improves drought tolerance. Fertilisers play an important role in producing a healthy crop.

We use fertilizers such as M.A.P at sowing to enhance the phosphorus levels in the soil to establish the new crop as it germinates. If we have a paddock with a long cropping history, we could also add urea to help with initial establishment of the crop.

Once the crop is established we add a nitrogen-based fertiliser Urea to lift nitrogen levels in the soil which in turn increases crop growth and protein of grain. for e.g asw (australian soft white) has protein level of 9% by adding urea we hope to build this upto 13 % to14% which is called aph(australian prime hard)


Variety choice

When choosing a variety of wheat to be sown, you need to research and consider what type of soil you have, how much grain the variety will yield, the sowing time of each variety and what the demand and sale value for the variety. The variety is very important as it impacts the ability of the grain’s quality to attract full potential payments at sale time.

Disease and frost resistance are two factors that need to also be considered when choosing a wheat variety, as both will have a great impact on the final yield.

When choosing a variety, you should research what best suits your climate, yield and soil type. Four varieties of wheat are Suntop, Lancer, Gregory and Spit Fire.

Varieties of wheat such as Lancer, Kittyhawk and Suntop take full advantage of the sowing period in Australia. These varieties range from early sowing dates to later in the season sowing dates, the time for sowing the variety is reflected in the maturity of the plant. Some varieties of wheat will mature at a faster rate than others which allows them to be sown later in the season, whilst others take longer to mature and must be sown earlier.

The variety of wheat selected must be suited to the sowing time of the region and must be a priority when you are preparing to plant for your crop.

Suntop wheat

Suntop is a variety of wheat that contains a high disease resistance and includes a high yielding statistic. This high-quality breeding line is sown in the late sowing window for wheat crops. On my farm we sow this crop late May

Lancer wheat

The variety lancer includes the features of great Stripe, Stem, Leaf and rust resistance. Sown as a slow maturing variety of wheat to help capitalise on earlier planting opportunities. This variety is an early sown type and sown in early May in our region.


Sowing dates

The cropping management process involves a lot of decisions, this process determines the sowing dates and the variety that should be grown for that season, what weeds need to be controlled and the pest and diseases that could affect the yield of the crop.

Types of wheat such as kittyhawk are able to be grazed if sown in the early sowing period whereas lancer is sown in the middle of the sowing period and sunstop is sown later in the sowing period for wheat crops. Kittyhawk allows the crop to be sown early to allow for growth to feed stock (grazed) after the crop is grazed it is able to recover and still produce a yielding crop. Each variety has its benefits and the ability to take full advantage to produce a high yielding crop is sown at the correct time.

Weed control

There are two main weeds that need to be managed in wheat crops, they are broadleaf weeds and grass weeds. Weed management using chemicals can be broken up into three parts; these include fallow, pre-emergent and post-emergent spraying.

Fallow spray consists of “Roundup – Glyphosate”, “2-4-D Amine” “Triclopyr 600 EC” this mix will control grass weeds e.g annual ryegrass, broadleaf weeds e.g Pattersons curse and, safferson thistle, woody weeds e.g melons.

Pre-emergent sprays include “Glyphosate”, “logran”, “sakura” which will control annual ryegrass and various broadleaf weeds such as Pattersons curse in your wheat crop.

Post emergent spray of “LVE MCPA” will control certain broadleaf weeds such as wild radish, pattersons curse and saffron thistle. Grass weeds such as annual ryegrass and black oats can be controlled using “Topik”.

Broadleaf weeds are a common problem in wheat crops, to control these weeds you need to use a combination of fallow, pre and post emergent sprays. Pattersons curse affects the pasture of a crop as the weeds are competitive for light, moisture and nutrients in its time of growth. Pattersons curse is also very toxic to the wellbeing of animals grazing the pasture.

Grass weeds are also very common and you should use the fallow, pre and post emergent spray to stop the spread and growth of the weed.
Ryegrass is a very competitive weed that spreads at a rapid rate because of the amount of seeds the weed produces.
You could choose two weeds eg Patterson’s curse and ryegrass and talk about how they affect the crop yield.

Pest Control

Pest control is the use of chemicals (insecticides) to eradicate certain insects that will eat or cause damage to the wheat crop as it grows. The insect’s damage results in the crop not maturing to produce a yield or a reduction in the yield of the crop.

Russian wheat “Aphids” are a pest in wheat crops because they can cause yield losses of up to 80%. The aphids cause problems by releasing a toxin into the plant which can defect the wheat’s growth and appearance also reducing the grain yield.

To control these aphids, you need to use insecticides, once such insecticide is Alpha Duo “cypermethrin”.


Some wheat varieties are susceptible to disease. Disease impacts the crops ability to grow, which decreases the yield achievable.

Wheat leaf rust is a fungal disease that causes up to 20% of damage in winter wheat yield reducing the profit of the crop. This fungal disease is airborne although it starts in small patches, it can be easily spread throughout the whole of the crop if not treated with a fungicide.

This disease is more exposed in conditions of a wet season with temperatures between 10 -20 C with the humidity causing the fungus to grow.

Prior to sowing you are also able to treat the seed and the fertiliser with a fungicide.
Leaf rust can also be managed with heavy grazing of the previous seasons crop to prevent new growth and the spread of rust.
Wheat rust can be treated with the use of fungicides known as Triazoles. Triazoles are absorbed by the wheat plant. Triazoles however can cause a disadvantage when treating seed as it can cause a reduction in shoot length so the rate of application needs to be reviewed, and also the depth you sow the wheat, if the shoot is shorter than the depth sown – the crop will be unable to grow.

Wheat varieties that are resistant to leaf rust or show some resistance are listed below along with its resistance level

  • Variety Leaf Rust Resistance
  • LRPB Lancer RMR#
  • Elmore CL Plus RMR
  • Cutlass R
  • LRPB Cobra MR#
  • LRPB Trojan MR#
  • Chief CL Plus MR
  • R = Resistant
  • RMR = Resistant to moderately resistant
  • MR= Moderately resistant

# Varieties marked may be more susceptible if more virulent strains are present


Harvesting crops once involved the use of a horse and pull along header but now we harvest using large modern self-propelled harvesting machines such as a 9120 case. The first header was invented in Henty NSW in 1914 by Headlie Taylor. From this invention and the increased use of technology the modern-day header is now able to harvest up to 50 tonnes an hour using header fronts up to 40 to 50 feet in width.

Harvesting the crop is where you use a header to cut the crop, where the grain is then augered into the bin in the header. The header once full will then auger the grain into either a truck/ field bin or chaser bin. If it is augered into a field bin or chaser bin it must then be augered into a truck. The truck will deliver the grain to either on farm storage such as silos or will deliver the grain to the town silo’s where it can be sold straight away to a grain merchant or stored and sold at a later date.

The use of these modern machines allows for crops to be stripped / harvested at a greater speed with less wastage. The speed allows the farmer to remove the grain from the crop at a faster rate before the ripened grain is damaged by fire, wind, hail

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