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Regenerating poor-performing pastures with DBS

Home > News > Regenerating poor-performing pastures with DBS
Ausplow general manager Chris Farmer (left), Keith Ryan, who will be overseeing the pasture trials in New South Wales, Ausplow managing director John Ryan AM and Glen Innes, NSW farmer, Peter Alexander, pictured next to the Ausplow trial seeder. Keith, who is John’s brother, has had extensive experience and knowledge of deep tillage and the DBS system. Ausplow service manager Ray Beecham is obscured underneath the trial seeder. Ray plays a pivotal role visiting DBS owners throughout Australia.

Ausplow general manager Chris Farmer (left), Keith Ryan, who will be overseeing the pasture trials in New South Wales, Ausplow managing director John Ryan AM and Glen Innes, NSW farmer, Peter Alexander, pictured next to the Ausplow trial seeder. Keith, who is John’s brother, has had extensive experience and knowledge of deep tillage and the DBS system. Ausplow service manager Ray Beecham is obscured underneath the trial seeder. Ray plays a pivotal role visiting DBS owners throughout Australia.

Healthy germinations of brassica and ryegrass sown into ryegrass pasture. According to Ausplow managing director John Ryan AM, Ausplow has shown for more than two decades - since the introduction of the DBS - that aerating the soil, providing a water-harvesting trench and placing the seed at the optimal depth, are key features to properly establish and grow healthy plants. “In the case of cash crops, there’s a yield benefit and in the case of pasture crops there’s a huge nutritional benefit,” John said.

Healthy germinations of brassica and ryegrass sown into ryegrass pasture. According to Ausplow managing director John Ryan AM, Ausplow has shown for more than two decades - since the introduction of the DBS - that aerating the soil, providing a water-harvesting trench and placing the seed at the optimal depth, are key features to properly establish and grow healthy plants. “In the case of cash crops, there’s a yield benefit and in the case of pasture crops there’s a huge nutritional benefit,” John said.

Trial work on two northern New South Wales farms in the Tablelands, shows promise of unlocking potential to boost grazing pastures. Ausplow owner and managing director John Ryan AM has been working with Glen Innes farmers Peter Alexander (‘Whinstanes’) and Greg Chappell (‘Shannon Vale Station’) in establishing several trial sites on their respective properties.

The objective is to overcome so-called ‘green drought’ during which predominately perennial ryegrass roots languish in the topsoil, surrounded by moisture unable to infiltrate deeper in a compacted zone (enhancing water-logging). In summer, as the ground dries out, the crop stays green, growth is stunted and is of no nutritional value for stock (cattle) feed, and the crops rarely respond to urea treatments.

The conventional method of establishing perennial ryegrass is to use a disc seeder operating on seven inch (17.5cm) row spacings and seeding shallow.

That was done this year on Peter Alexander’s property weeks before John Ryan spoke to Peter and Greg about using a DBS trial seeder operating on 12 inch (30cm) spacings.

It is used to dig to a depth of seven inches, in effect cultivating below the seed and the existing pasture.

The machine also aerates the soil, while precisely placing fertiliser at a required depth and seed at an optimum shallow depth. In the trials on Peter’s property, using the Pro-D tillage system (without the ‘Plus’ or bottom plate), the DBS established brassica forage varieties, like sudax, and ryegrass, with a balanced liquid fertiliser and Calbud, which essentially is finely-ground dolomite for soil pH management and carbon addition.

In Greg’s trials, he opted for a balanced granular formula to plant ryegrass and Lucerne. Early autumn growth in the DBS-established trials on both properties have excited Peter and Greg and they are looking forward to continuing further trials in Spring to evaluate other planting options and to evaluate this first trial in terms of the spring flush. Traditionally, ryegrass is left as a perennial which is why John suggested sowing another crop with a deeper root system (taproot), to aerate the soil to allow plants to ‘hang on’ better in summer and for N-fixing.

“So basically, with the action of the DBS in breaking up soil hardpans and encouraging water infiltration, when temperatures rise, roots will be able to access moisture at depth and overcome that green drought in summer months,” John said.

“I think it’s a very exciting development for farmers who have struggled to produce strong, healthy pastures on land that over time has compacted, and therefore provided only a shallow zone for roots and moisture.

“The Northern Rivers districts, which have higher average rainfall, is also good cattle country and all the valleys are mostly fertile alluvial sandy loam, but the clay content has aided soil compaction, along with trafficking and weathering. “Deep ripping is not an option in the Tablelands region, in the typical sandier alluvial soil, because of the abundance of subsoil obstructions, such as rocks.

“But in this country, the DBS works well, as it does in similar soils throughout the Australian wheatbelt. And remember, there will be no need for the higher horsepower tractors, which are needed for deep ripping. “Typically you can assume a horsepower requirement pulling the DBS of 8-10hp a tine.

“So, on a 12 foot machine, with 10 tines, you’re looking at between 80 and 100hp to pull the DBS. “We have shown for more than two decades - since the introduction of the DBS - that aerating the soil, providing a water-harvesting trench and placing the seed at the optimal depth, are key features to properly establish and grow healthy plants.

“In the case of cash crops, there’s a yield benefit and in the case of pasture crops there’s a huge nutritional benefit.” “Interestingly, the regeneration system could save water because of effective infiltration and reduced run-off.” The big bonus of the trials, according to John, will be the flush of African love grass which can be slashed and the cattle then eat the new shoots.

“No chemicals will be needed which is a big cost saving and I think you’ll see this type of pressure on love grass will reduce its seed population,” he said. “It also could have the benefit to compete with carpet grass and therefore there will be no need to spray out pastures. “You can retain all the grasses and have the benefits of improved water infiltration and new growth as plant roots navigate old root pathways to access deeper moisture.”

When the next set of trials are planned (for Spring planting this year), John said more plant options would come under consideration. “The benefit of perennial ryegrass of course, is that it’s permanent and you don’t have to plant every year,” he said.

“And it responds very well to a deep working. “But options could include soy beans for the nitrogen benefit, or sudax with a large fibrous root, which can also be cut for silage. “Or Lucerne, with a longer tap root, which also can be cut for silage.

“Both sudax and Lucerne will facilitate oxygen at depth by aerating the soil. “This will assist in plant root breakdown into soil humus. “For Spring sowings you could establish tropical grasses, like dolichus lablab, which has attributes of deep rooting, is an excellent forage crop and it fixes nitrogen.”

John also mentioned his work was partly inspired by Colonel Harold Fletcher White (1883-1971), a grazier and soldier who was one of the early pioneers of pasture development in his district at Guyra. And currently he is impressed by work done by retired CSIRO principal soil scientist Dr Margaret Roper who is revealing some exciting side benefits of her work into overcoming water-repellent soils.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017