WITH a contract signed for $920 a tonne for his chickpea crop, you'd think John Piper would be rubbing his hands together and planning for a big fishing trip.
Instead he has only persisted with parts of the crop purely because of the decent prices, but is now hoping the extra work was worth it.
Mr Piper is part of Piper Farming Enterprises, an 800ha family business based in the Felton Valley, south of Toowoomba.
After signing off on the $920 per tonne contract, he said he took a bit of a gamble with his 100ha planting of Hat Trick chickpeas.
"Some of this country is only two years out of chickpeas, but because of the good prices we've probably pushed the envelope a bit with where we've planted,” he said.
"If the prices weren't so high we probably would have sprayed out by now.”
Mr Piper said ascochyta was running rampant through parts of the crop and he had applied fungicide six times to control it, with little effect.
"We've been trying to combat that and we've also had a high number of heliothis grubs.
"The other discovery we made was black oats, which are resistant to Haloxyfop.
"It's been a very challenging crop.”
He said in many ways it had been the best chickpea crop he had grown, with great bush size and plenty of pods, but it had been a lot of hard work.
The difference between areas that had been planted with chickpeas in previous years and other areas that had gone through better crop rotation was stark.
It was also a plus that the soil would now have plenty of nitrogen fixed for whatever he plants next.
"So high hopes, but a lot of catching up to do,” he summed up.
The crop had just started to turn and had stopped flowering and he expected it would be about three weeks until harvest.
Until then he reckoned he would reserve his judgment on whether it was worthwhile.
He said he was pretty certain he would have quality concerns at harvest, but the upside was that most of the pods affected by ascochyta aborted and wouldn't make it into the sample.
He expected the yield would run to around 1.5 tonnes/ha when averaged over good and bad areas.
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