General news category

Renovated DBS #53 still going strong

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General
Manoora, South Australia farmer Peter McInerney with his refurbished 30 foot DBS which completed 2000 acres of cereals and pasture establishment this year.

Manoora, South Australia farmer Peter McInerney with his refurbished 30 foot DBS which completed 2000 acres of cereals and pasture establishment this year.

Ten years ago, Manoora, South Australia farmers the McInerny’s bought a 23 foot DBS precision seeder.

It was a second hand machine originally owned by fellow DBS owner and WA farmer Barry Kowald, Katanning. It was bought for Peter by his brother Tom, an agronomist who manages the Nutrien Ag Solutions agency in Gnowangerup, south east of Perth, with Zac Walsh.

Hearing his brother wanted a bigger bar, Tom last year secured a 30-foot S Series DBS D260 (serial number 053) from Ian Laurie, Gnowangerup, with extensions for a wider working width of 36 feet.

Tom dismantled the bar and had it sand-blasted and painted in Gnowangerup before sending the frame and seeding modules to Peter, who renovated it in February this year with the help of Ausplow’s service manager Ray Beacham and staff from Ausplow South Australian dealer Ramsay Bros at Riverton.

“We re-bushed and upgraded all of the tine assemblies to second hand ‘Version 3’ assemblies, resealed all of the hydraulic tine cylinders, installed a new air kit and replaced all of the hydraulic hoses across the bar,” Peter said.

"It might be an old bar but after renovating it came up like a brand new bar and worked really well for us establishing 2000 acres of cereal and pasture.”
According to Peter he used six-inch DBS blades with 50mm split seed spreader boots, effectively creating eight-inch rows on 10-inch spacing’s, which is ideal for his hay crops and increasing weed competition between rows.

We also run RTK guidance between rows mainly for trash flow so we’re not disturbing stubbles and the competition we’re creating with hay crops in the rotation is helping us control our ryegrass weeds better.”

Peter says the big benefit of using the DBS is its precision seeding and excellent plant establishment.

“In some paddocks we still pull up some rocks but 90 per cent of the time the DBS works really well and the tine stays in the ground” he said.

Low profile magic bullets in soil profile

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General
Former CSIRO scientist and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper says her research shows current soil amelioration cultivation practices are harming the soil microbial population responsible for building fertile soils.

Former CSIRO scientist and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper says her research shows current soil amelioration cultivation practices are harming the soil microbial population responsible for building fertile soils.

Stubble removed and cultivated prior to seeding. The dye shows the pathways for water movement have been destroyed. Photo: Margaret Roper and Phil Ward, CSIRO.

Stubble removed and cultivated prior to seeding. The dye shows the pathways for water movement have been destroyed. Photo: Margaret Roper and Phil Ward, CSIRO.

Blue dye shows infiltration down new and old rows in a zero-tilled row. Photo: Margaret Roper and Phil Ward, CSIRO.

Blue dye shows infiltration down new and old rows in a zero-tilled row. Photo: Margaret Roper and Phil Ward, CSIRO.

By KEN WILSON
THERE are no magic bullets.
You have probably heard that ad nauseum in agriculture while encountering such problems as chemical resistance, low soil pH, plant diseases, et al.
As far as you’re concerned it’s a truism, based on self evidence.
But things are changing to a point where CSIRO and GRDC scientists and researchers are pointing to neglected ‘magic bullets’ that exist literally under your feet.
You know them as bacteria, fungi and small soil animals, otherwise referred to as soil microorganisms or soil microbes, which basically are the building blocks of fertile soil.
There are between one and two tonnes a hectare of microbes in the top soil with 70 per cent in the top 10 centimetres, providing more than 10 billion microbes in a kilogram of soil with literally kilometres of fungal hyphae.
The hyphae spreads like a network to capture nutrients and in a highly complex symbiotic relationship, provides these nutrients to plant roots while accessing food in the form of exudates from the roots.
A classic visual of this process is the ‘dreadlock’ roots you find on healthy plants.
What science is now showing, through trial research, is a better way to grow crops - better than what might be regarded as the game-changer for broadacre farming in the 1990s when no-till became the norm.
And better than the evolution from deep ripping (dating back to the late 1960s) to wholesale soil amelioration techniques which has seen ‘rediscoveries’ of the mouldboard plough and the one-way plough.
Today’s focus is on eliminating non-wetting soils, where possible to invert and bury weed seeds (mouldboarding) and mixing lime, clay and gypsum to elevate soil pH (at least in the top 10-20cm of the soil) and to create more water-holding capacity, through an improvement in soil structure.
Ironically, these cultivation solutions, which have given economic responses and on face value appear to be sensible management practices, also promote problems, ie, chiefly, upsetting or destroying fungal hyphae networks.
There is conjecture about how soil microbes and organic matter are affected by technology.
But former CSIRO scientist and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper is in no doubt, on the back of more than a decade of trials, that cultivation practices can reduce organic matter and water-holding capacity in WA’s water-repellent sandy soils.
“We have consistently found in trials over the years that cultivation (and stubble burning) will result in the loss of organic matter in the soil,” Dr Roper said.
In 2008, Dr Roper was involved in a trial program at Munglinup and after four years of measuring organic matter in ‘district practice’ plots (cultivation and stubble burning), a noticeable depletion in organic matter levels occurred in the top soil down to 10cm, compared with no-till plots.
“It happened quite quickly from 2009 onwards,” Dr Roper said. “It was so consistent that we stopped the burning in 2011 but we retained the plots in our overall trial program.
“From 2012 to 2017 we returned all plots to no-till and stubble retention.
“After six years, the plots that were previously burned and cultivated in the first four years of the trial, showed little or no recovery in terms of organic matter levels, water-holding capacity and crop yields, when compared with the plots which had been under no-till and stubble-retention from the beginning of the trial.
“It can really take a long time for the soil to recover from burning stubbles.”
According to Dr Roper, there is world research that shows if you create an environment that increases organic matter, you can achieve a significant increase in available water-holding capacity, and this can be more pronounced in sandier soils.
The problem is getting to that level of soil fertility. It’s not a quick fix.
Understanding how long it takes to restore soil to its optimum fertility remains elusive.
And in an economic environment where every paddock must make money, it’s problematic that any paradigm shift, alluded to here, will occur, particularly with farmers cropping in sandy soils.
But Dr Roper points to trials involving near-row sowing in South Australia and WA which have shown promise.
“At this stage it remains a hypothesis because of the lack of long term trial data,” Dr Roper said. “But initial work I have been involved with for more than a decade does point to a range of benefits.
“Near-row sowing implies establishing crops close to the previous year’s crop rows where there is a high likelihood of moisture, which new roots gravitate towards and establish in old root pathways.
‘It is in this environment, where moisture is present, that beneficial soil microbes populate, including wax-degrading bacteria (eliminating non-wetting).
“And compared to the non-wetting inter-row, the microbial population is far greater than that in the inter-row by a factor of 10.”
It follows that a soil that hasn’t been dried out by cultivation, has the potential to build carbon levels to create more water-holding capacity and increase soil fertility leading to healthier crop plants with high yield potential.
The obvious question is how sustainable is planting in virtually the same row year after year, which can induce plant root diseases.
According to Dr Roper the sheer population of beneficial microbes can play a positive role in suppressing diseases, with trials already showing suppression of crown root rot in cereals.
And the bonus of maintaining the same planting rows, creates a hostile, dry (from non-wetting) inter-row where weeds will struggle to grow.
Additionally, with growing soil fertility implying structured soil, there may be no need for the costly type of deep ripping, spading or mouldboarding.
“I believe near-row crop establishment is the closest thing yet to sustainability,” Dr Roper said.
And she believes there is more to come from research efforts, particularly related to in-furrow liquid nutrient applications.
Currently Dr Roper is working with Ausplow Farming Systems on a trial program at Quairading specifically assessing the attributes of in-furrow liquid nutrient applications.
“We could be on the cusp of something really exciting but it is still early days,” she said.
(Published in Farm Weekly, September 3, 2020 and used with kind permission).

Customer focus hallmark of success

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General
Wongan Hills dealership Boekeman Machinery toured Ausplow’s Naval Base factory last month with Ausplow owners and prospective clients keen to hear the company’s latest news. Here, company managing director and DBS inventor John Ryan (left) talks with Bindoon farmer Kristen Kelly and Boekeman Machinery salesman Ben Boekeman. Kristen has owned a 12.2 metre DBS for three years and picked up some handy information during the tour.

Wongan Hills dealership Boekeman Machinery toured Ausplow’s Naval Base factory last month with Ausplow owners and prospective clients keen to hear the company’s latest news. Here, company managing director and DBS inventor John Ryan (left) talks with Bindoon farmer Kristen Kelly and Boekeman Machinery salesman Ben Boekeman. Kristen has owned a 12.2 metre DBS for three years and picked up some handy information during the tour.

ONE of the main reasons for the success of WA manufacturer Ausplow is its focus on customers.
According to sales and marketing manager Chris Blight, Ausplow staff travel throughout Australia to talk with customers.
“Our after-sales service doesn’t stop,” he said. “We are always focusing on building good relationships and the bonus for us is the good feedback we get that is important to our research and development work.”
A more recent example was a northern Wheatbelt farmer who suggested bigger floatation wheels for the DBS to better negotiate deep-ripped country.
“About 70 per cent of our bars are now sold with floatation tyres,” Chris said.
Another example was a suggestion from the company’s South Australia representative, who after speaking with customers, suggested changes to the mud scraper on the seeding assembly.
“That’s now a standard feature,” Chris said.
Being the biggest seeding and tillage manufacturer in Australia does draw copy-cat designs but according to company general manager Chris Farmer, the salient difference between the company and the copy-cats is the reason why Ausplow entered the market.
“We’ve always been focused on the agronomic aspects of tillage and seeding when we design equipment,” he said. “We’re not just making steel.
“There’s more to it than planting seed.”

Precision move to back manufacturing

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General
Seeding’s over, now for the follow-up rain. That was the topic of discussion between Jennacubbine farmer Darren West (left), his son Dylan, Ag Implements Northam branch manager Luke Siddons and salesman Ted Chester, as they reviewed the performance of Mr West’s new DBS precision seeder recently.

Seeding’s over, now for the follow-up rain. That was the topic of discussion between Jennacubbine farmer Darren West (left), his son Dylan, Ag Implements Northam branch manager Luke Siddons and salesman Ted Chester, as they reviewed the performance of Mr West’s new DBS precision seeder recently.

Jennacubbine farmers Dylan West (left) and his father Darren discuss the performance of the paired row boot which was a specific addition to the DBS because the majority of the West program is growing oats for export hay.

Jennacubbine farmers Dylan West (left) and his father Darren discuss the performance of the paired row boot which was a specific addition to the DBS because the majority of the West program is growing oats for export hay.

By KEN WILSON
JENNACUBBINE farmer Darren West is an avid supporter of WA manufacturers.
So it was an easy decision for him assessing a new seeding bar for this season.
His choice was a DBS precision seeder built by Ausplow at its Naval Base factory.
The D260-46N CTF model was delivered in March by Ag Implements Northam, well before the start of a 1700ha cropping program, the majority of which was oats for export hay.
The model designation translates to a 12.2 metre working width on 260 millimetre spacings designed for controlled traffic farming (CTF). It also is designed with a narrow main frame to negotiate narrow gates.
While Darren has yet to change to CTF, the bar is compatible with his 36.6m boomsprayer.
He started the program on May 5 “into dry dirt” and completed most of the program before waiting for the recent rain (and wind) front to pass before completing the final 250ha of oats and 300ha of wheat on deep ripped sand.
“The bar has done everything I hoped it would do,” he said.
“It didn’t miss a beat in the dry digging to between five and seven inches (125-175mm) without compromising seeding depth and the proof of that was the even germinations.
“We added the paired row boots to the bar because we’re mainly growing oats so we’re achieving a narrower row spacing plus leaving it on for wheat helps with weed competition.
“With about 21 mills for May and June, everything is now up and away.
“And we’ve got 54 mills of summer rain sitting down there which is a good feeling.”
According to Darren, the DBS is built for dry sowing.
“It’s got the weight and it just digs and I was pleasantly surprised we didn’t have any problems with string (from hay bales) wrapping around the tines.”
Darren also praised the quality of components, including the Pro-D tool system which comprises the bolt-less DBS knife blade and adaptor, a new fertilizer boot and fertilizer shield.
All are depth adjustable simply by using a specially-designed hand tool to remove a retaining pin which holds the assembly together.
The hand tool also is used to lock the assembly in place once adjustments are made.
Its newly designed and patented closing tool also is depth adjustable using a hand tool.
“It’s a great idea because we basically have two options to use to cater for soil types,” Darren said. “Basically we can dig between five and seven inches on our heavy country and change to seven to nine inches (225mm) for lighter soils if we want to.
“But the hand tool is still in the plastic bag as we had no need to change any points this seeding.”
As far as Darren is concerned the DBS is “the best you can buy” and “it’s built in WA”.
“I’m impressed with the company’s attitude of wanting my feedback to improve the bar and the after sales services both from the company and Ag Implements,” he said. “Having everything local is really good in terms of quick responses from the company and the dealership.”
This year Ausplow improved the Pro D system with a new V2 closing tool assembly and extended-wear fertilizer shield and boot, allowing for precision granular and liquid delivery.
There’s also a V4 tine assembly with stainless steel fertilizer and seeding tubes for improved handling of mud and sticky clays, new stainless steel liquid delivery manifolds with Friction Flow tubing and stainless steel primary risers.
The top rail of the DBS frame is now 100 x 100mm (previously 100 x 50mm) which enhances strength characteristics by nearly 50 per cent with increased gussets and struts within the frame and new gusseting on the wheel arms. The drawbars also have been strengthened.
p Darren also is a member of the Legislative Council representing the Labor Party. He is currently Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Ports; Minister assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade.
Story and photos courtesy Farm Weekly.

Pot of gold awaits DBS owner

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General

This striking photograph was taken by a DBS customer during seeding, with the comment that he had struck a “pot of gold” using his DBS to establish his crop.
Ausplow has received many comments from owners who have reiterated the performance of the precision seeder, particularly in dry sowing conditions.
In fact much of this year’s program was established dry before the beneficial June rains. With many owners reporting good subsoil moisture there is plenty of confidence going forward.

It’s a wrap for Ausplow 2020 trial establishment

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General
Ausplow R&D coordinator Dr Margaret Roper (left), Quairading farmer Brayden Hayes, nutrient consultant Dave Seagreen and Ausplow engineer Cony Sumoro discuss the Ausplow 2020 trial program after Brayden assisted with the trial work earlier this month pulling the Ausplow trial planter with his Case IH FWA tractor.

Ausplow R&D coordinator Dr Margaret Roper (left), Quairading farmer Brayden Hayes, nutrient consultant Dave Seagreen and Ausplow engineer Cony Sumoro discuss the Ausplow 2020 trial program after Brayden assisted with the trial work earlier this month pulling the Ausplow trial planter with his Case IH FWA tractor.

Quairading farmer Brayden Hayes swings his tractor linked to Ausplow’s trial seeder for one of the final legs of the trial program at Ausplow research and development site at Quairading.

Quairading farmer Brayden Hayes swings his tractor linked to Ausplow’s trial seeder for one of the final legs of the trial program at Ausplow research and development site at Quairading.

Ausplow’s 2020 trial program has been successfully established at the company’s research and development site at Quairading.
The final trials were established earlier this month ahead of good soaking rains in recent weeks.
The on-going program involves liquid fertilisers with the focus this year on assessing nutrient combinations.
These will include a specially-developed Ausplow formulation, designed by the company’s R&D coordinator and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper and nutrient consultant Dave Seagreen.
All the treatments in the trial will involve near-row sowing.
Already uniform germinations are appearing and hopes are high for a good season to evaluate the potential of treatments.

An important pathway to progressing soil structure

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General
A specially-designed Ausplow DBS precision planter being used in New South Wales. The DBS is a Clayton's version of deep ripping and a defacto Keyline system, encouraging rain to stay where it falls.

A specially-designed Ausplow DBS precision planter being used in New South Wales. The DBS is a Clayton's version of deep ripping and a defacto Keyline system, encouraging rain to stay where it falls.

(PART TWO OF A THREE PART SERIES)
By JOHN RYAN AM
I often wonder what my uncle Percival Yeomans (PA), an engineer and farmer in New South Wales, would say about modern day crop establishment practices.
He was, of course, the inventor of the Keyline contour system which basically was designed to retain moisture where it fell, eliminating washaways and water erosion on slopes and reducing water-logging in the valleys.
It came after he had been experimenting with various tillage techniques for pasture establishment and regeneration in the early 1950s.
Initial attempts started with a chisel plough designed by Texan farmer Graham Hoeme and named after him.
But Percival soon found the two inch wide shanks tore a lot of roots out of the soil while requiring a lot of horsepower to pull it.
Further investigation led him to develop his own plough, called the Yeomans plough, which was used for keyline plowing when he established ‘The Keyline Plan’ in 1954.
It was essentially designed, with thinner shanks, to lift and aerate the soil while limiting soil disturbance to minimize oxidation of organic matter.
For many years the Yeomans plough became the tillage tool for deep tilling and pasture renovation but the lack of high horsepower tractors limited its ability to work deep in the subsoil.
Further development was based on work in Texas with a ‘Lubbock Vibrating Plow’ which was designed with a vibration mechanism, driven off the tractor PTO.
It featured a dual eccentric counter-balanced rotor system which acted as a unbalanced flywheel.
As the flywheel turned, it caused the entire implement to vibrate and the machine was made out of angle iron and bolted together rather than welded to withstand the vibrations.
Its most important feature was that it broke up hardpans, yet left the soil relatively undisturbed.
In the early 1970s I began developing a similar machine which was later called the Shakeaerator, which was in commercial production between 1974 and 1979 and was manufactured under licence in England.
It was able to penetrate deeper into the subsoil and used less horsepower than the chisel plough which was restricted by a spring-loaded tine and a C-shank, which increased horsepower requirements.
The Shakeaerator worked better in dry, hard soils which resulted in good fracturing but very high wearing parts.
It led to farmers reverting to the chisel plough again with a lot of work often done after rainfall events.
This led to soil collapsing, causing re-compaction and losing soil aggregation or structure which plant roots couldn’t penetrate to obtain deeper moisture and nutrients.
It was found that ripping into established pasture, or after seeding with roots established, maintained soil aggregation, allowing good infiltration of moisture and easier access for plant roots to grow deeper in the subsoil.
My experience was that ripping at seeding allowed plants to develop roots quicker which reduced soil collapsing to maintain good infiltration of moisture and air.
It was the right idea but it proved difficult to obtain accurate seed placement as seed often fell into the deeper furrow created by the digging blades.
That’s when I started to develop the DBS no-till system, which in effect, is a Clayton’s version of deep tilling – loosening the soil, aerating it, providing moisture infiltration and achieving accurate seed placement.
It also is a defacto Keyline system encouraging rain to stay where it falls – how many DBS owners have trouble filling their dams?
So now we’ve arrived at our next development. We’ll continue the story in our September edition of Ausfacts.

Ausplow trials enter second phase

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General

Ausplow’s on-going research and development program involving liquid fertilisers at its Quairading research and development centre has entered its second phase.
Following last year’s trial of 10 treatments, held in a difficult season with statistically inconclusive results, this year’s trial which was established in May, will focus on assessing nutrient combinations.
These will include a specially-developed Ausplow formulation, designed by the company’s R&D coordinator and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper (pictured above) and nutrient consultant Dave Seagreen.
All the treatments in the trial will involve near-row sowing.
According to Dr Roper, the focus of the trial is on “proving the hypothesis that the new liquid fertilisers perform better than current standard fertiliser strategies in a near-row sowing system”.
While working as a principal research scientist at CSIRO, Dr Roper was engaged in research trials that showed near-row sowing overcame the problems of establishing crops in non-wetting soils.
“This is further enhanced with the DBS system,” Dr Roper said. “Essentially the three-slot system creates an environment that improves plant germination, particularly in dry-sowing scenarios in water-repellent soils.
“We are seeing an increase in dry sowing, particularly as farmers are starting seeding programs earlier sowing canola.
“Our hypothesis is that in near-row sowing, the DBS maintains a relative humidity environment that allows dry seeding at the paddock scale by creating a wet seeding environment at the seedling scale.
“This is because, in water-repellent soils, water enters the soil via old root pathways and therefore, near-row sowing together with liquid fertilisers creates a relative humidity that is near 100 per cent, or at saturation point of water vapour surrounding the seed.
“This is a real eye-opener for us as we better understand how the DBS creates this environment allowing water vapour to be a primary source of moisture for seeds.
“If our hypothesis proves to be correct, the combination of liquid fertilisers and near-row sowing will greatly mitigate the negative impacts of dry sowing, reducing or eliminating staggered plant germinations typical of water-repellent soils.
“I am very excited by our initial trial work and I believe the new Ausplow nutrient formulation is a key to the overall success of our research.”

Patience the big message to building healthy soils

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General

Glenn Innes, NSW, farmers Greg and Sally Chappell are reaping the rewards of a patient endeavour to improve soil health on their Shannon Vale property.
But the latest message from the couple, who also run Dulverton Angus stud, is that they’ve got more to do.
The couple oversee 500 cows on their home property with 150 bulls, with a further 400 cows on a neighbouring lease block.
The Shannon Vale property totals 3600 acres (1450ha) and when the Chappells bought property in 2001, it was immediately apparent a strategy was needed to overcome a long history of degraded and compacted soils.
With an annual rainfall of 875mm (35in), it was imperative to take advantage of the available moisture and so began a program to improve the soil’s water-holding capacity by building up carbon levels.
Weeds were the main problem, particularly African lovegrass, which had negligible nutritional value yet dominated over more palatable pasture species.
“Since about 2008, we have been re-building the soil by increasing organic and carbon content, through things like mulching weeds, manuring and using a liquid potassium mix, based on plant analysis,” Greg said.
The herd becomes the mechanised process of smashing up weed ‘stubble’, including lovegrass, bringing it in contact with the soil where biological processes start material decomposition.
“It’s a long-term process but we’re seeing encouraging signs from our measuring sites,” Greg said.
“When we started we were below one for organic carbon and now it’s around 3.5.
“With soil pH it’s gone between 4.4 and 5.7 to 5.9 and 7.1.
“And now, none of the sites are measuring below 5.7.”
His explanation for the change, after a period of only four years, was simple: “We stopped single super (too much acid) and started manuring.
In 2017 Greg established 84 acres (34ha) of pasture with an Ausplow DBS trial planter, using a balanced granular formula to plant ryegrass and Lucerne.
Greg was impressed with the result, particularly the under-seed cultivation and shattering of the subsoil, breaking up soil hardpans and encouraging water infiltration.
On the pasture renovation side, Greg says by using the DBS and Multistream they are accelerating the process he and Sally started, because, “we didn’t factor in this type of deep tillage in the beginning”.
“And we’ve introduced dung beetles to get those cow pads into the soil to bring up the carbon levels and we’re creating a worm environment,” he said.
Greg has also used the DBS planter to establish forage sorghum and cow pea (for N in the silage), which is used as silage feed for the cattle.
Last year he bought a 15-foot (4.5m) DBS on 10-inch (25cm) spacings with a mounted Multistream on the bar and liquid tanks on the drawbar to provide him with the capacity to switch between granular applications and liquids, including a new Ausplow formulation.
Now he is looking at replacing the granular fertiliser box with a liquid tank to go “full liquid”.
“The liquids give us a chance to move forward with a balanced nutrition package being introduced into the soil, providing more benefit for high performance pasture growth,” he said.
“The liquids are doing a far superior job for us with quicker germinations and plant growth that outcompetes the weeds.
“For us, the DBS is our pasture renovator and it is working really well.
“Ausplow also added twin Turbo discs out front to cut the plant roots without disturbing the main tap root.
“The discs are the duck’s nuts especially in lovegrass which is very clumpy.
“We’re sowing oats into it with the idea of busting up the subsoil to get a more permanent pasture with a diverse plant mix.
“I like the DBS because it is a one-pass operation.
“You’re keeping soil intact in these grey loams and building healthy soils because of the minimal disturbance and the root build-up which creates air spaces and pathways for moisture.
“It will take time but we’re retaining organic carbon and building moisture-holding soil.
“This in turn will improve the cation exchange capacity (CEC) which in our sandy soils is low, so we have no binding structure.
“By improving organic matter and holding water in the root zone, we achieve a higher CEC, which influences the soil’s ability to hold onto essential nutrients and make them available to plants.”

Managing change in a marginal area

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General
Bencubbin farmer Nick Gillett has two 60-foot DBS precision seeders for his 10,000-hectare cropping program to ensure he completes his program within the ideal sowing window, which he says gives him the ability to get the crop in and up in marginal moisture conditions.

Bencubbin farmer Nick Gillett has two 60-foot DBS precision seeders for his 10,000-hectare cropping program to ensure he completes his program within the ideal sowing window, which he says gives him the ability to get the crop in and up in marginal moisture conditions.

Managing change is arguably the number one challenge for farmers these days.
And for WA farmer Nick Gillett, who manages an 10,000-hectare cropping program at Bencubbin (275km north east of Perth), it’s the reason he has two 60-foot DBS precision seeders.
“In a nutshell, it gives me the ability to get crop in and up in marginal moisture conditions,” he said.
But timing also plays an important role and Nick has noticed the seasons are getting shorter(dry warm finish, etc).
“Basically 2014 was an extremely tough finish and crop-s sown later than mid-May didn’t perform well,” he said.
“This was the primary reason for going from a 50-ft to 60ft DBS in 2015. Seasons have always been changing, however, 2014 stood out.
“Frost is always a concern but sometimes our last seeded crops are the worst affected,” Nick said. “So it’s hard to farm for frost and you’ve got to stick with yield is king.
“It’s better to set up a potential two tonne crop with the risk of some frost than a 1.4t crop potential and not getting any frost.”
It’s a similar attitude to liquids and near-row sowing.
This year Nick is returning to trialling liquids again, in his marginal area with about 310mm of average rainfall.
“We started with Flexi-N in 2000 and basically did it until 2015,” he said.
“We stopped simply because of the cost differential between Flexi-N and granulated urea, the ease of operator use and the variability of zinc and Flutriafol (fungicide).
“With the latter we were getting build-up inside the nozzle body and sometimes a skin across the filters.
“We found poor tank mix compatibility and it added another complexity level for the operator to check componentry and keep an eye on pressures.”
Nick has two 6000 litre capacity liquid carts to provide a bigger capacity outside of his air seeders and with the acquisition of his second 60-foot DBS, with Friction Flow liquid kit, he hopes he will have time to “play around a bit” with liquid nutrition.
“I think it’s time to go back to liquids but it still depends on the pricing spread between urea and Flexi-N,” he said.
With near-row sowing, Nick says inter-row sowing with RTK has been his management practice since 2006.
“If we’re chasing moisture to get a germination we more often go on-row because our stubble levels aren’t too high,” he said. “But our main aim is to sow in between the rows and maintain our standing stubble.
“On-row is probably less than five per cent of our program and is mainly a tool for the heavier clay type soils where germination can be an issue with small amounts of rain.”
“I know non-wetting can be an issue sowing inter-row but it’s not an issue here because of our soil types and rotations.
“We mostly have Mallee soils running into Salmon Gum clay loams to deeper sands and gravels.
Nick maintains a watchful eye on changes.
“The game changes every year and you try to make little increments of change because it is still hard to know if you’re doing everything correctly,” he said.
“We have proven recipes but the problem is utilising the best recipe for a given season.
“I think the best tools are timeliness and attention to detail."

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