REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: What a difference a year makes on Kangaroo Island

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KI HARVEST: A harvester works its way through a paddock of barley on Kangaroo Island. Photo: Stan Gorton

KI HARVEST: A harvester works its way through a paddock of barley on Kangaroo Island. Photo: Stan Gorton

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, farmers on Kangaroo Island were in a life and death battle to save their farms.

Now this January, farmers have just harvested what will no doubt be a record grain harvest.

The same paddocks turned black were waving with abundant crops.

Kangaroo Island Pure Grain took in 27,500 tonnes of barley, wheat, canola and broad beans, about 8000 tonnes more than last year.

And this figure does not take into account the farmers who grow cereal crops for their own stock feed purposes.

The loss of more than 50,000 sheep in last January's fires on Kangaroo Island meant several graziers turned their paddocks over to cropping, adding to the Island's bumper harvest.

The South Australian government allowed the Island to maintain its GM-free status, which boosts prices KI Pure Grain receives for the canola and now possibly wheat sold into Japan.

KI's barley by the way goes to Cooper's malting plant, so bottom's up.

CROPPING WORK: Hayden Riley, Jeff "Fox" Ness, Josh Deer, Alex Dunn, Chris Dunn, Chelsea Wills and William Barrettt take a break from harvesting on Kangaroo Island. Photo: Stan Gorton

CROPPING WORK: Hayden Riley, Jeff "Fox" Ness, Josh Deer, Alex Dunn, Chris Dunn, Chelsea Wills and William Barrettt take a break from harvesting on Kangaroo Island. Photo: Stan Gorton

Veteran cropper Rodney Bell, of Bellevista farms, said it was the perfect year for growing grain on Kangaroo Island.

The Island can sometimes get too much rain in July, but this year it was just perfect followed by a fantastic finishing spring rains, he said.

Mr Bell said his operation's own barley yields were 8.2 tonnes per hectare, or 50 bags per acre in old money.

"That's something you only heard about in New Zealand," he said.

He credited not only the weather, but also the passion and ingenuity of the next crop of young farmers.

Technology such as GPS equipped tractors and harvesters meant accuracy to within 2.5 centimetres when planting, spraying and harvesting - all translating into great efficiencies and harvest.

"We're pushing the envelope when it comes to machinery and technology," Mr Bell said.

I thought we'd end this today on a bit of a quiz. How many sheep do you think are this photo? Answer at the end of the story.

THIRSTY SHEEP: A large flock of thirsty sheep around a farm dam on a hot Kangaroo Island day last week. Photo: Stan Gorton

THIRSTY SHEEP: A large flock of thirsty sheep around a farm dam on a hot Kangaroo Island day last week. Photo: Stan Gorton

Speaking of sheep and New Zealand; the old saying used to go that New Zealand had 20 sheep per person. Radio New Zealand in 2019 reported that number had fallen to 5.6 sheep per person.

But consider this. Kangaroo Island with a population of only 4500 people and an estimated 500,000 sheep, according to AgKI, has a ratio of 111 sheep per person.

The answer: About 3500.

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