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Pioneering with DBS 001

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Ross Whittall and his nephew James Lewis who helped run the farm with Ross when this picture was taken in 2003 by Farm Weekly. In the background is DBS 001.

Ross Whittall and his nephew James Lewis who helped run the farm with Ross when this picture was taken in 2003 by Farm Weekly. In the background is DBS 001.

DBS 001 sandblasted and painted by owner number two Glen Williams.

DBS 001 sandblasted and painted by owner number two Glen Williams.

A happy Simon Jaeske with DBS 001.

A happy Simon Jaeske with DBS 001.

DBS 001, the first ever DBS bar built by Ausplow in 1996 is still going strong. It has been traced to South Australian farmer Simon Jaeske, Clare, who bought it off WA farmer Glen Williams from Gibson, who bought it off the original owner, Ross Whittall from Esperance. It’s a fascinating story of a precision seeding bar which initially solved a major problem for Ross, who in 1991 had embraced the true no-till concept with a disc seeder and found its limitation in not being able to harvest water. The following is an excerpt from a story in Farm Weekly in April, 2003: “The seeder had a press wheel to the side of the cutting disc which made the slot for the seed,” Ross said. “Moisture found its way into the depression made by the press wheel, while the seeding row remained dry. “With the 30 foot wide DBS, you achieved a ridge effect that encouraged water harvesting into the seed row and I immediately got a better germination. “The bonus was that with the knife point breaking up the sub soil, there was better plant root establishment.” When Ross bought DBS 001 he also took a leap of faith going to wider spacings. “I was on seven inches with the disc seeder but the DBS was designed on 10 inch spacings,” he said. “It didn’t cause any problems for me from the point of view of weeds getting on top of the crop. “I was splitting the seed and fertiliser (deep banding) and the DBS system worked very well.” With a no-fuss precision seeding bar, Ross enjoyed many years with DBS 001, including extending it to 40ft. “We modified the bar to increase its working width to 40ft but when we decided to go into controlled traffic farming we wanted a 30ft bar so we bought a new DBS,” Ross said. So DBS was sold to Glen. Then in 2009 he bought a three tank 9000 litre capacity Multistream to refine his nutrient program. The front tank was used for seed, the middle for granular fertiliser and the rear for liquid nitrogen with optional agitation. The agitation was driven off tractor remotes and comprised a nozzle mounted inside at the bottom of the tank. Essentially it constantly recycled the liquid mix by sucking it in and blowing it out. The degree of agitation could be altered on-the-go in the tractor cab. “I started using Flexi-N liquid fertiliser when it first came out in 2000,” Ross said. “At that stage we only used it as a post spray application. “But the Multistream is a huge improvement because we can split the nitrogen putting some in the trench at seeding (40L/ha) and applying more (60-70L/ha) as the season dictates. The post application is done at Flag-minus-one with a mix of MCPA to clean up any radish. “We also are applying Impact-in-furrow as insurance against rust and this fungicide is mixed in the Flex-N. Then we have a Dosatron which introduces liquid copper from a separate container into the Flex-N line.” According to Ross the new seeding rig provides “very even” spread of seed along the row along with accurate fertiliser rates, courtesy of a KEE controller. “And it’s easy to calibrate,” he said. With 14 years of using the DBS, Ross is seeing soil becoming softer with more organic matter. He establishes a1200ha cropping program using controller traffic which also has assisted with the status of the soil. “Obviously the rig is easier to pull with the tractor on the traffic rows but I think the subsoil renovation done by the DBS and the ability of plant roots to access moisture in the deeper soil profile has accelerated that softness. “With less drag, comes less fuel use too.” The proof of the pudding with the DBS system is in stronger plant establishment and setting up yield potential. While seasons vary markedly and can impact on yield, Ross is reminded that you can be a victim of your own success by setting up bumper crops. “I remember in 2004, the crop looked very good but with a dry finish the wheat ended up as chook feed,” he said. “The problem was that the plants were so well established, the roots easily got down into the sub moisture profile and sucked it dry leaving nothing to finish on. “It’s one of the reasons we go early with N applications to give the plants a start then wait for tillering to set up before we go in with a top-up. “We don’t go heavy with the first lot of N in the trench because we don’t want to encourage to many tillers.” Ross said he was now seeding thicker at rates around 90kg/ha for both wheat and lupins, in a wheat-lupin-canola rotation. (Sadly Ross died in 2012). The second owner For Glen, he can lay claim to a rare event. He sold DBS 0001 for the same price he paid for it. Glen worked the bar for 11 years before he sold it last year to Simon. “I paid $70,000 for it and when I sold it I got $70,000,” Glen said. “”It’s amazing considering the bar was the first one built in 1995 or 96,” he said. But Glen did add value to DBS 001 about five years ago adding trusses through the back of the bar similar to a DBS E Series and then sand-blasting and re-painting it. “I kept it in the shed when it wasn’t working and looked after it, so it was in very good shape when I took a few photos and sent them to Simon when he inquired about the bar,” Glen said. It goes without saying that Glen was impressed with the performance of the DBS because he bought a new model for the 2015 season. “We’ll crop about 4000 acres this year with a new DBS 40 footer on 12 inch spacings,” he said. Overall Glen said DBS 001 performed well but “it was time for an upgrade”. “It was a 20-year-old bar that was starting to show its age in the more variable soil types as opposed to still working really well in good soil conditions, particularly sowing canola,” he said. The current owner Simon completed his first season using DBS 001 last year. He bought the 12.2m (40ft) bar last year from Glen after looking at photographs of DBS 001 supplied by Glen. “It looked in pretty good nick after being sandblasted and re-painted,” Simon said. “We bought a few parts from Ramsey Bros, Riverton, before we put it into the ground, mainly blades, a few bushes and bearings for the parallelogram and the press wheels. “We also got a few seals for the hydraulics and while we did a wheel bearing on the bar, apart from that it was in really good condition.” Simon, who crops 5000 acres (2000ha), comprising canola, wheat, barley and hay, said it was almost an instant like for DBS 001 because of its ”exceptional seed placement”. “It was much better than our old seeder and our only disappointment was the tight finish to the season which resulted in us having high screenings. “But I’m happy with the bar and we’re looking at upgrading to Pro-Ds which should give us a long life with the DBS.” Simon said he used 15cm (6in) blades last season digging between 75mm and 100mm (3-4in) but found stubble caught on the bolt with consequent dragging of stubble. “This year we’ll go to seven inches (17.5cm) so the blade sits up a bit higher and there’s more leading edge for the stubble to get around rather than catching,” he said. Simon’s other observation was that digging deeper with the DBS promoted bigger root systems, especially with canola and while he went through two sets of blades because of the tight soil, he is confident he will be going into softer soil his year. His soils comprise mainly red brown loam, ironstone and limestone and he quickly became aware when the DBS hit a “reef”. “We just lifted it up and kept going,” Simon said. “We did bring up a lot of rocks and we had a rock bucket working but I had expected that and there weren’t too many dramas.” Simon has every reason to believe he will enjoy a long life with DSBS001. And he can lay claim to establishing his cropping program with arguably, Australia’s oldest broadacre precision seeding bar.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016