FEATURED: Branson Farms the yield champion

By: Anna Game-Lopata

Presented by

In his determination to achieve the best possible farming system for his soils, South Australian grain farmer Mark Branson chose early adoption of everything from yield monitors to GPS, controlled traffic and precision agriculture. Now he’s reaping the rewards.

FEATURED: Branson Farms the yield champion
South Australian grain grower Mark Branson isn’t your average farmer.

It’s not every farmer who can say he’s behind the great flavour of beer. But Stockport, South Australian grain grower Mark Branson isn’t your average farmer.

In 2012 Branson planted the first large-scale crop of a new variety of barley in Australia, ‘Charger’.

Owned by European brewing companies Carlsberg and Heineken, Charger is remarkable for its ability to stop the flavour of beer deteriorating; therefore extending its shelf life.

While Carlsberg owns the Charger gene, it was developed and bred in Australia by specialists at Adelaide University in association with Heineken before being grown by Branson and malted by Coopers Brewery.

That year, Charger outperformed Branson’s other barley varieties, averaging 6.5 tonne a hectare with some patches going over 8 tonne.

The successful production of Charger was the culmination of 13 barley growing seasons undertaken with a great deal of research and fraught with challenges, including combating a terrible fungal disease known as net blotch.

While Branson’s first batch escaped relatively unscathed, the pathogen did damage the 2013 season’s crop, even though he used fungicides.

As a previous president of Southern Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) and a Nuffield scholar, Branson modestly attributes much of the achievement to his networks.

But he definitely has an overall impressive track record. In 2010 for the first time he achieved a 10 tonne a hectare yield in a patch of wheat.

He is currently achieving average wheat and barley yields of 4.5 tonne a hectare per season.

Find out the secrets behind Mark Branson’s farming prowess in the August issue of NewFarmMachinery, on sale 11 August 2014. Subscribe to the magazine for more farm machinery news, reviews and features. 

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