Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - No-till
21 NO-TILL GROUND COVER NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT SA: research pays off A RESEARCHER TURNED FARMER PUTS HIS KNOWLEDGE TO GOOD USE BY BERNIE REPPEL EXPERIENCE AS A research officer with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) meant that Matt Dare hit the ground running when he left the institute and began farming outside Clare in 2000. He has recently returned to SARDI on a part-time basis. And, because his work with SARDI had focused on no-till research, single pass seeding and the mechanical aspects of no-till, he felt confident moving straight into no-till. The property was owned by his parents-in-law and, under the previous share-farmer, worked in a combination of ‘conventional’ cultivation and some direct drilling with pre-drilled fertiliser. Mr Dare used the share-farmer’s Forward airseeder in his first season, direct drilling barley and legumes but pre-drilling fertiliser into his wheat paddocks. He bought an Agrodrill combine type seeder, set up with Flexicoil tines on 18-centimetre (seven inch) spacings and with press wheels, then replaced that with a Flexicoil bar/Simplicity airseeder, with 23cm (nine inch) spacings, press wheels and 19-millimetre Harrington knife points. Mr Dare says the biggest benefits of no-till are probably fewer tractor hours, timeliness of sowing and moisture conservation, which he has been able to see since he began cropping at Clare. Over the past three years he has looked to canopy management and deep soil nitrogen testing to calculate post-emergent urea applications, the most recent carried out on 2006 wheat and canola in the middle of August, just before a few millimetres of badly needed rain. Mr Dare’s neighbours generally apply in-crop urea for him, using Bogballe spreaders, but there are plans to apply some fertiliser by aircraft. “I have a bit of a look at the forecast for the season when I’m deciding how much nitrogen to apply in that second application,” Mr Dare says. “I also take into account the background history of the paddock and the deep nitrogen testing.” More information: Matt Dare, 0407 463 001, email@example.com more traditional methods of farming.” Expecting 75 per cent germination in the wheat, Mr Hutchinson is delighted to have almost 90 per cent of the crop up: “I would predict potential yields to average 1.75 tonnes per hectare for wheat but if we have good rains, this could go up to 2t/ha.” Mr Hutchinson, who hosted a WANTFA grower group bus tour in July, admits that the change to a conservation farming system was not always easy. After the first few years, when no significant yield gains had been achieved, he began to reconsider his decision. But he was told: “Stick at it – you’re close to cracking it!” “This year all our hard work and perseverance has finally paid off,” Mr Hutchinson says. “All the crops we’ve sown have come up and haven’t looked drought-stressed. They aren’t tillering quite the same as you would expect from a normal crop, but this isn’t a normal year! At no stage were we ever going to stop seeding or leave areas out.” According to Geoff Fosbery, of Farm Focus Consultants, taking advantage of stored moisture to plant on time – as the Hutchinsons did – can earn no-till farmers up to $100 per hectare more than their traditional counterparts. He says the ability to chase moisture is critical in a dry May and June, such as occurred in 2006: “No-till and retaining straw have been marvellous this year.” More information: Colin Hutchinson, 08 9638 1010, firstname.lastname@example.org Professor Miller was concerned about the lack of perennials in Australian cropping systems. He said the problem with continuous cropping of annuals was that they did not use enough water: "Growers need to look at other options, including deep-rooted annual crops such as sunflower and find ways to get perennial plants back into the system. Growers should consider using deep-rooted crops to draw down watertables, especially where salinity is a concern. "Trees are difficult to put back in the system, but perennial forages seem to have an obvious and historical fit." Professor Miller said he was impressed with the productivity gained from the very low- quality soils in many parts of Australia but was also very concerned about their sustainability: "Australian soils in general are far more fragile than almost any soil types we have in the northern Great Plains." More information: Professor Perry Miller, 0011 1 406 994 5431, email@example.com Matt Dare: used his experience at SARDI to hit the ground running.
GC Supplement - Grains nutrition
GC Supplement - Growers sharing knowledge