Flame Of The Month Dustyn and Belinda
Dustyn and Belinda Fry farm their property “Lonepine” 12km west of Pithara in W.A.s north central wheatbelt.
Can you describe your operation Dustyn?
We’re 100% croppers with 2200ha and a lease of 850ha with a rotation primarily being 30% Canola and 70% cereals. Some pulse crops come into play along with fallow phases on the heavy country and deep ripping on the responsive sandplain soils. Its all under a 12m controlled Traffic system.
So why do you burn?
Other than Harvest Weed Seed Control we still get positive agronomic responses to the use of fire in some situations.
I wouldn’t call myself “pro-burning” but I’m not “anti-burning” either. I’m data driven.
For barley on barley I’ll do a whole paddock burn. We’ll drop narrow windrows on Canola for burning.
I’m chafflining in wheat and I never spread the chaff fraction of any of the harvested crops.
I do love keeping stubble for moisture retention and soil health benefits in our lower rainfall region.
With that said, I still get a positive yield response to using fire in the system.
One issue is frost damage to crops. In susceptible seasons where we’ve maintained stubble cover, we’ve incurred a hit from frost, resulting in yield penalty.
In 2018 the Barley yield response to burning the previous stubble was off the scale.
Barley on burnt stubble yielded 2.4t/ha where on unburnt stubble yielded 0.8t/ha.
Despite this result I was motivated to maintain some stubbles from 2018 into the 2019 cropping season. The photos from 2019 show the contrast as well.
Mindful of nutrient tie up I applied enough nutrition to grow a 4t/ha crop in what turned out to be a very dry year. Altho there was no difference in yield of crop grown on burnt verses unburnt stubble areas, we observed there was preserved soil moisture in September, in a dry year, on the unburnt stubble country but it gave us no yield benefit.
I believe frosts are becoming more common in this area and the effects are getting worse.
Burning residue has not failed us regardless of crop, variety or soil type.
How does the Accufire unit perform for you?
We’ve had this unit from 2010, maybe earlier. Its performed really well and such a great timesaver. We really like being able to control the unit from the cabin. We have different family members doing the work and it is nice to have a solution that is safe for all to use.