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Back to basics says John

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Ausplow owner and managing director John Ryan.

Ausplow owner and managing director John Ryan.

Fix the land and make money.
That in a nutshell is how Ausplow owner and inventor John Ryan AM assesses the state of agriculture today.
After an involvement in the industry spanning nearly 50 years, he believes it’s time to go back to basics.
“There’s a real urgency within the industry to find quick fixes and there are a lot of questionable tangents starting to pop up from the central issue of soil fertility,” he said.
“Really nothing has changed to convince me that we should move away from where we originally started with deep tillage and the DBS precision seeding system.
“We’ve now had nearly 20 years of the DBS being in operation in broadacre cropping throughout Australia and the evidence we get from our DBS owners is compelling in that the DBS system works well.
“In fact many of our owners say there have been years when they would not have harvested a crop had they not had a DBS and it is evident their soil is becoming more structured.”
John says there still is no template for farming.
“To a large extent your soil and moisture availability should dictate your management practices,” he said.
“It has always been a truism that healthy soils produce healthy crops and stock and I believe you can achieve that and make money in the process.
“You don’t have to go real deep and you can use the DBS with the aim to establish a good environment in which plants roots can thrive and go down into the subsoil.
“If you study root pathways by digging a soil pit, you can see where roots almost become biological rippers in getting through tiny cracks and crevices in the soil.
“It allows air and moisture to follow root pathways to also get down into the subsoil where oxidation starts a process on which bacteria can thrive and start creating soil humus.
“It’s a slow process as everybody knows and watching organic carbon levels rise is like watching grass grow.
“But if you do it right you will get results.”
While John agrees that precision farming is the way to go, it will throw up challenges that have to be addressed with some form of cultivation and attention to increasing soil health.
A deep ripping program before starting Controlled Traffic Farming, for example, is a preferable strategy to ensure the reduction of hard-panning between wheel tracks.
And the timing of deep ripping on different soil types can be crucial to success or failure.
For example, in deep sands, a rip following crop germination can be more beneficial than ripping after summer rain.
“If you rip you’ve got to have something growing to keep the soil open so roots can penetrate and not only seek deep subsoil moisture and nutrients but also start the process of structuring the soil into a friable state.
“If you try to rip into dense clays you got to be careful how you treat it because being dense it has no air and can dry out quickly so you’ve got to water it during crop emergence otherwise it collapses back into an almost concrete state.
“Using the DBS is a good way to start deep ripping in responsive soils while making money with the crops you plant.
“Or if you’ve got stock or thinking about going back into stock, renovating pastures with the DBS in August, for example, and sowing a summer crop or perennial cover crop is worthwhile.”
John also gives credit to Mindarabin farmer Simon Hill, a director of Burando Hill, for trialing crop establishment into the previous year’s crop row.
“The ProTrakker he uses to ensure he can sow precisely alongside the stubble without disturbing it is ideal,” he said. “The accuracy ensures the seedling will incline towards the beneficial environment that more often than not has collected moisture in the row during the year.”
John also encourages DBS owners to assess the benefits of liquid fertilisers and soil ameliorants.
“Do a few trials to start with to see what works in your paddocks,” he said. “Liquids to me seem to be the way to go and it was a major reason why I designed the Multistream liquid delivery system to provide farmers with some flexibility at seeding.
“With the improvement in mapping programs and software applications, adopting a more flexible approach to your cropping programs, which could include variable product rates, is a good pathway to increasing farm profit.
“So I just encourage more experimentation based on the proven principles we have established with the DBS system.
“The more you farm using DBS principles the better your soil will get and the more money you will make.”

Publish Date: 
Friday, November 20, 2015