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Evolving with the DBS

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New Norcia farmer Peter Nixon.

New Norcia farmer Peter Nixon.

New Norcia farmer Peter Nixon can consider himself an “evolvee” in terms of the evolution of the DBS.
He was among the early adopters of a broadacre crop establishment system that promised precision seed placement while creating a “pot plant” environment to promote plant growth.
It was a system promoted as a three slot system by Ausplow managing director and inventor John Ryan AM, who devised it with the help of market gardener Laurie Sumich.
For Peter, who already was on the evolution pathway, moving from conventional multiple-pass crop establishment to so-called minimum till, the logic was compelling.
“We were using a Chamberlain scarifier in front of a Shearer combine seeder but once we studied the DBS concept it made sense to us to build a float under the combine using DBS modules for a one-pass operation,” he said.
“The hydraulic breakout also was very appealing for our rocky country though the full tine release wasn’t possible because of height restrictions of the combine.
“But it worked and it wasn’t long before we converted to an experimental 30 foot (9.1m) DBS bar with an air seeder box mounted on the drawbar.
“The underseed cultivation and precision seeding depth was what we had been looking for.”
Then he tried an Ausplow Compact three-point linkage model incorporating three bins and a 40 foot (12.1m) bar.
It worked well but trash clearance wasn’t brilliant and the 250mm (10in) row spacings was a downside for sowing pasture crops which were better suited to 175mm (7in) row spacings.
But Peter never relinquished his faith in the DBS system mirroring crop expansion with bigger DBS models and new Multistream precision delivery units, capable of dispensing granular and liquid products.
Today he owns two 18.1m (60ft) DBS bars respectively linked to four and six-bin Multistream units.
So what has he learnt about the DBS in 20 years?
“We’ve had steady crop yield increases and over time we have pushed in all our Whittington Interceptor banks and contour banks and rarely now do we get enough run-off to fill dams,” he said. “And we don’t see washaways through paddocks anymore.”
“We have adopted up-and-back or straight-line working in undulating country since we adopted the wider DBS bars because the water is staying where it falls.
“We are in a 500mm average rainfall zone and sometimes you see a few washes but nothing dramatic.
“Soil types are everything from light sands to gravel and loams and rocks and I doubt we would be where we are today if we had used anything other than the DBS.
“We have pretty tough country and the DBS modules got knocked around a bit in the early days, which I don’t think other bars could have handled.
“But now our soil in much more friable and with the DBS we’ve created a more beneficial environment for crop seeds to grow.”
Peter is circumspect about crop yield increases, attributing various factors.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “The DBS is one in creating a good environment for the seed and helping to improve soil fertility but we’ve also got better at fertilising and controlling diseases and weeds.”
On row spacings, Peter is open-minded on going wider than the current 30cm (12in) spacings on his two DBS bars.
“There are questions about 12 inches being too wide for wheat yet there’s talk of going wider for canola,” he said. “I think we need to study the trade-offs where weed control is concerned.
“The key reason we stayed at 10 inches for so long was because we were growing more pasture seed crops, but now there’s more emphasis on our cereals, with our main focus on barley.
“We vary our seeding rates between 80kg/ha (barley) and 100kg/ha (wheat) and sub 2.5kg/ha for canola and we’re pretty happy with that.”
And despite pushing up rocks, Peter says more of his neighbours have switched to DBS.
“It’s a strongly-built machine and you don’t get the tine-chattering that causes irregular seed placement,” he said.
Still on the evolution trail, Peter and his son Andrew have their sights set on more precision.
“Things like minimising overlap and singulation are areas that can reduce costs so they’ve got our attention,” he said.

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Friday, April 11, 2014