A crop fit for royalty: the King family
Located 10 kilometres south of the picturesque north west New South Wales town of Mullaley lies the King’s property, home to three generations of Australian crop farmers.
Taking over the daily operations on the farm from his parents Jim and Robyn King four years ago, James and Sophie King run the 1300-hectare property year-round.
The lush property with copious space is used for a range of agriculture. The land is divided up by 200 hectares of grazing land, 170 hectares of irrigation and a remaining 930 hectares used for growing broad acre premium durum wheat, sorghum and cotton.
Prior to taking on the family farm full time, James spent 24 years running a crop spraying contracting business which remains operational alongside working the Mullaley property.
“We aim to grow as much top-quality durum wheat with high protein levels for Manildra Group as possible each year,” Mr King told The Cultivator.
“It’s always nice to have both businesses operating, especially during the years of drought. The Spraying business really was a key part of our ability to be able to run the farm through the last tough few years,” he said.
According to James, in the entire 50 years that the King family has owned the property, the recent drought saw them miss two winter crops for the first time ever.
“It was a challenging time for all farmers, but we were lucky in comparison to most,” he reflected.
With 170 hectares of irrigation on the property, the King’s were able to use this to their advantage during intense dry periods.
Missing out on two winter crops, the Kings sowed more wheat in 2020 than previous years with the aim of providing ground cover and the weather paid off with high yields harvested late last year in what James described as, “An amazing harvest with no rain at all – my favourite time of the year.”
The high protein durum wheat grown on the King property is harvested and sent to Manildra Group’s Gunnedah mill in north west New South Wales.
“We have a great relationship with Manildra Group and love working with such an obliging and professional team at the Gunnedah mill,” Mr King said.
Manildra Group Head Grain Buyer, Peter Sloan has worked with the King family for over 14 years when James’ father Jim King was at the helm.
“We have a strong relationship with the King family and are always impressed with their high protein durum wheat,” said Mr Sloan.
“Their proximity to the Gunnedah mill and passion for the land means they are a perfect fit for the type of grain we are looking to buy,” he said.
Looking to the future of the business, Mr King is hopeful that one of his three daughters may return to the property and become the fourth generation of King’s to farm on the land.
The King’s durum wheat is an essential ingredient in producing high-quality durum semolina which is widely used in the pasta making industry in Australia. A hard and dense wheat, durum wheat is known for its high protein content which aids in providing structure in pasta products.
Looking beyond 2021, the King’s plan on diversifying their cropping to a more intensive approach.
“With land getting more expensive, we are looking at investing in ways to maximise the use of our land through more sustainable solutions,” said Mr King.
The King Family have already established a number of systems to better manage drought, save money, increase yield, and use new farm technologies, but also acknowledged the operation would adapt further to respond to fluctuating industry demands and changing weather.
“The irrigation systems and underground water we have in place have definitely helped keep our yields as consistent as possible in the recent years, however we have also found that utilising a system of long fallow rotation has also allowed our soil to recover between sows and gain back its full nutrient base,” said Mr King.
“This practice of long fallow rotation has also meant we are reducing resistance to herbicides used further cutting costs to chemicals and labour on the property.
“We also practice full zero till farming to not disrupt and erode the soil and to conserve moisture where possible. We use camera sprays to reduce our herbicide use on all of our crops.
“We are very happy with the results we are seeing from these practices and want to focus on putting as much back into our soil as we are getting out,” he said.
“As a third-generation farming family, we are very proud to be able to sell our grain to a 100 per cent Australian family- owned company.
“Manildra Group’s values, support and presence in regional Australia is very important to
us when it comes to our product, and we look forward to a long, productive working relationship with Manildra for years to come,” Mr King said.