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Re-building soil key to sustainability

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Lush ryegrass biomass contrasts a love grass-dominated paddock (pictured below) on Greg and Sally Chappell’s Glen Innes, NSW property. The above paddock was renovated and reseeded with a DBS with ryegrass crowding out the love grass.

Lush ryegrass biomass contrasts a love grass-dominated paddock (pictured below) on Greg and Sally Chappell’s Glen Innes, NSW property. The above paddock was renovated and reseeded with a DBS with ryegrass crowding out the love grass.

Love grass-dominated [paddock.

Love grass-dominated [paddock.

*This is the second of a two-part series relating to Glen Innes, NSW farmers Greg and Sally Chappell. Part one was published here earlier this month.

GREG and Sally Chappell have created a living laboratory managing their Dulverton Angus stud, Shannon Vale, comprising 500 cows and 150 bulls.
It’s a template that can be assessed by all farmers and “re-jigged” to suit different rainfall regions and soil conditions.
Greg is not saying it’s the total answer for improving crop production and animal health but the evidence on his property is compelling.
True, his annual average rainfall is 875mm (35in), but in dry years he still manages good production, through his process of building up carbon levels to hold moisture.
Since 2008 he has been re-building soil through mulching weeds, manuring and using a liquid potassium (K) mix based on plant analysis.
It has been a slow process but having been involved in trials using a DBS and Multistream airseeder, he is now convinced of the system and believes the DBS is accelerating the process.
“I think by using the DBS and Multistream we’re on the right road because we didn’t factor in this type of deep tillage in the beginning,” he said.
“We’ve also introduced dung beetles to get those cow pads into the soil to bring up the carbon levels and we’re creating a worm environment.
“The dungies are our best friends. They bury the dung thereby breaking the worm cycle resulting in less harmful chemistry entering the soil destroying worms, microbes, etc.
“We’re getting less incidence of disease, less Buffalo fly and less drenching.
Dung pads also help break the Buffalo fly cycle and so are less harmful to ‘’low order life’’ chemistry entering our system.
“It’s our contention that if this chemistry “kills” lower order life, then it has to be having a negative effect on “Primates”.
Dung in the ground also means the nutrients are being positively re-cycled particularly potassium.
In January, Greg used the DBS planter to establish a forage sorghum and cow pea crop (for N in the silage), which is used as silage feed for the cattle.
“On our first cut we took off 14 tonnes a hectare which gave us 136 bales,” Greg said. “Last year we sowed with the aerator and only got one cut which gave us 129 bales.
“This year we got a second cut which gave us an extra 100 bales, which must be because the roots could get down into moisture from that deeper working with the DBS.
“Our usual method in planting the sorghum was to spin it (seed) out and roll it in with tyre rollers.
“With the DBS we’ve probably doubled our yield.”
According to Greg, the DBS has already proven itself by his three Rs analogy of renovate, rejuvenate and re-establish.
“Going forward the DBS will be a major component in our system”.
Greg has now ordered 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.
“It’s especially good for mixing up the K-brew, so we’re pretty happy with the machine,” he said.
“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.”
And a pleasing feature of the DBS, according to Greg, is that you don’t have to wait for moisture to start a sowing program.
“The DBS penetrates the subsoil and breaks up the hardpans and you can get moisture coming up to wet up the seed beds,” Greg said.
“It is our intention to use the DBS to establish and rejuvenate pastures that have been severely depleted as a result of erratic rainfall distribution, Corbie Grubs, etc.”
According to Greg, the benefits of the DBS include:
1. One pass function reducing operational costs.
2. The machine’s unique design enables it to break through existing plow pans thereby enhancing water and oxygen infiltration.
3. The machine can handle substantial trash levels enabling us to plant directly into existing, albeit, depleting pasture swards without using chemicals.
4. This enables the positive contribution from soil microbes.
“Let’s give biology a GO.” he said.
According to Ausplow managing director John Ryan AM, Greg is “bang on” with his system.
“I wouldn’t be put off by his story if you’re a more dryland grower,” he said. “Greg’s basic approach is true for all soils and all rain regions.
“We sometimes get fixated on how much rain we don’t get but the whole point of Greg’s system if you like, is to build soil structure so that moisture can be held in the root zone.
“It does take time, as Greg has shown, but it has to be remembered that if you build soil structure, it’s basically forever.
“And we know, moisture and air are the key factors in soil and plant health.
“If we get that operating, it triggers the increased presence of beneficial bacteria and microcrobes, creating the ripple effect of reducing plant root diseases and enhancing plant health."

Publish Date: 
Saturday, February 16, 2019