Ground Cover West : Ground Cover 069 July-August 2007 - West
Change in fortune from no-frills no-till Rob and Maree Goodear farm at 'Illogan', Cassilis, NSW, on 1340 hectares. A property plan undertaken 16 years ago opened their eyes to a number of soil-health and water-infiltration issues and led them towards no-till farming. Rob explains the thinking behind his farming philosophy n Before we started no-till practices, our property was going to Newcastle via the Goulbourn and Hunter Rivers. A property plan done 16 years ago by the Soil Conservation Service found that we had a severe soil structural problem and we had to change the way we were farming. It was at this point we turned to no-till. Soil erosion stopped immediately and our rainfall began to stay where it fell on the farm. It cost us nothing to start. I used a rattle gun to remove the springs off every second tine, taking us to 304-millimetre spacings. I got the oxy out and cut the wings off my points to narrow them up. We had no press wheels so I still dragged harrows, but found that the seed soil contact was not good enough. Press wheels are a necessity for good seed soil contact. We now sow on 400mm row spacings using an AFM Cultivator with two Napier Air Seeders and find that quite good, so don’t be frightened of wide rows. I have been told that there is a 10 per cent yield loss in having wider rows. However, in 10 years I can pick up an extra five or six no-till crops by opportunity cropping. And that’s not counting the crop that you will get when traditionally farmed crops fail. By my calculations, that’s a very big gain. The most valuable asset on our farm is stubble or ground cover. Good gardeners use it so why shouldn’t we? In 2006, where we had good ground cover, we had a crop. Paddocks that were conventionally farmed in the district that didn’t have ground cover didn’t get a chance to plant, or crops that were planted were grazed off. It is our aim to improve our soil’s physical, structural and biological characteristics. But we are also very aware of the costs involved in our enterprise and the savings we are getting from our no-till system. We used to put in 1200 hours a year on our tractor. Now we put in 200 hours. So if you think you can’t afford to convert to no-till, think again. Conservation farming has allowed us to improve our asset because without it we were not sustainable. Argentina lauds a revolution Argentinean grower and no-till advocate Ronny Kuhlmann tells Australian growers of his experience with no-till and why it is a 'new' kind of cropping n The no-till movement has brought about a new agricultural era, redefining arable and non-arable land, according to Argentinean graingrower, agronomist and member of AAPRESID (Argentine No-Till Farmers Association) Ronny Kuhlmann. He told Australian growers at the Central West Conservation Farming Association Conference earlier this year that no-till, which includes soil rotation and stubble cover, was a new kind of agriculture, capable of balancing productivity and the environment. He said it was no longer useful to refer to soils as ‘arable and non-arable’. Soils once considered unsuitable for sowing were now ‘seed-able’, while agro- ecosystems under conventional cultivation systems were becoming fragile compared with no-till systems. Mr Kuhlmann said no-till had expanded productive areas, increased soil productivity, decreased fossil fuel consumption and helped, overall, to mitigate farming’s greenhouse-gas emissions. “No-till seems to be the production alternative that best deals with different and usually controversial aspects: producing a profit, and being environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable,” he said. However, Mr Kuhlmann, who farms 4500 hectares in a 600 to 700-millimetre rainfall zone in the province of Buenos Aires, reminded his Australian counterparts that all these benefits could only be achieved if agro-ecosystems were fully understood, biological time cycles respected and immediate profitability not expected. “You need to have a vision of the system and to interpret this in its widest sense. No-till is more than a technology, it is a concept, which implies a change in thinking and abandonment of the dogmas typical of conventional agriculture.” Mr Kuhlmann said 50 per cent of the 72 million hectares under no-till worldwide were in South America (34.2 million hectares), of which half were in Argentina. He said that since 1993 four factors had helped no-till uptake. These were the development of suitable no-till machinery; a reduction in the price of glyphosate from US$40 a litre in the early 1980s to US$10/l in 1992 (today it is US$2.50/l); economic reform making farmers more efficient; and the formation of AAPRESID, the Argentine No-Till Farmers Association, which has helped growers to make the switch. Talking about his own enterprise, which includes wheat, barley, canola and soybeans, pastures and beef cattle, Mr Kuhlmann said no-till had boosted his farm’s water- use efficiency, while residue cover had helped to maintain a stable soil structure. He said he had been trialling a new soybean and sunflower rotation recently, where sunflowers were planted in October and soybeans one month later. Using 525mm row spacing, Mr Kuhlmann plants two rows of soybeans between single rows of sunflowers (1.57 metres) using Dow AgroSciences’ Clearfield® technology for both crops. His motivation is to make better use of sunlight and rain, with the aim of reducing drought risk. More information: Ronny Kuhlmann, email@example.com; www.aapresid.org.arg/english Conservation farming GROUND COVER JULY -- AUGUST 2007 16 Conservation farming practices, including minimum tillage and stubble retention, have been important in turning extremely dry years into manageable years for many growers, particularly across central-west NSW. At the Central West Conservation Farming Association Conference held earlier this year, growers shared lessons learnt and their future directions. Rebecca Thyer reports Maree and Rob Goodear at the Central West Conservation Farming Conference at Wellington, NSW. KEY POINTS: n Argentinean grower Ronny Kuhlmann farms 4500 hectares in the south-east of the prov- ince of Buenos Aires, in the country's main wheat area. n Mr Kuhlmann says no-till is a "new kind of agriculture, capable of keeping a balance between productivity and the environment". n Four factors have helped boost Argentina's no-till uptake: the development of suitable no-till machinery; a reduction in the price of glyphosate; economic reform leading to greater on-farm efficiencies; and AAPRESID, the Argentine No-Till Farmers Association. TIPS FOR NEW NO-TILLERS n If you are new at no-till see if there is someone in your district already doing it -- you can save a lot of time and money by sharing what they have learnt. n If you plant grazing crops, wide rows are better than narrow ones because stock will not trample your crop. n Sowing on wide rows with press wheels creates a furrow that becomes a catchment zone for rain, taking water directly to the root zone. n If your agronomist says you need to cultivate the soils, then change your agronomist, because there is enough proof out there to the contrary. PHOTO: REBECCA THYER Argentinean graingrower Ronny Kuhlmann addresses the conference.
Ground Cover 070 September-October 2007 - West
Ground Cover 068 May-June 2007 - West