ISSUE 15 â&#x20AC;˘ Winter 2019
Featuring CTF Case Studies and Research Trial Results Galore
This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s National Landcare Program.
CONTENTS Agriculture Victoria dry seasonal conditions information
Ripping into Mallee Soils – Key Considerations
Organic amendments and lentil growth in Mallee soils
New GRDC Grower Relations Manager Appointed
Evaporative protection in wheat
Volunteers wanted for the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group
Frost response in lentil
Many growers are asking how they can make their farming businesses ‘tech ready’ to capitalise on opportunities from digital agriculture
Controlled Traffic Farming in the Low Rainfall Zone – Case study
Chairperson, Mallee CMA Board
We are seeking assistance from community members on volunteering to be a part of the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group. This iconic bird in our region has been under threat and having volunteers assist with the monitoring of the bird will mean we will have a good understanding of its breeding and population within the Mallee. I encourage you to be a part of this project.
Welcome to the 2019 Winter edition of the Mallee Farmer magazine. We have experienced a very dry Autumn period and looking forward the Mallee is set to experience a warmer and dry Winter period. Let’s hope we do have some rainy breaks to assist our dryland farmers and also the regional environment. Have a look at the latest seasonal update from Kate Wilson who provides a great summary of what the region is encountering and facing this season.
Thank you to the team for putting this Winter edition together and let’s hope some rain starts to fall soon.
There is some valuable dry seasonal conditions information from Agriculture Victoria which highlights some announced programs which may assist farmers in the region. This edition has collated a number of recently published research articles which highlight very topical issues. Articles on Ripping Mallee Soils, Evaporative Protection in Wheat, NLP ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
ISSN: 1839 - 2229
Cover Photo supplied by: Chris McDonough
Frost Response in Lentils and Controlled Traffic Farming in the Low Rainfall Zone are all exceptionally interesting.
Mechanical chipper added 24 to weeds arsenal The last word
DISCLAIMER The information in this document has been published in good faith by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA). This publication and the information contained within may be of assistance to you but the Mallee CMA Board and staff do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purpose and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence that may arise from you relying on any information in this publication. You should obtain specialist advice on the applicability or otherwise of the information in this document. Neither the Mallee CMA nor any of the agencies/organisations/people who have supplied information published in the Mallee Farmer endorse the information contained in this document, nor do they endorse any products identified by trade name. The information in this document is made available on the understanding that neither the Mallee CMA, nor any of the people who have supplied information published in the Mallee Farmer will have any liability arising from any reliance upon any information in this document.
Agriculture Victoria Dry Seasonal Conditions Information
Rob Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shannessy was appointed as the North West Dry Seasonal Conditions Coordinator to help coordinate assistance at a local level across government and other agencies.
Farm Business Assistance Program
North West Dry Seasonal Conditions Coordinator Agriculture Victoria
The Farm Business Assistance program will provide a one-off support payment to eligible dairy farmers in Northern and NorthWest Victoria.
Farmers across Northern Victoria impacted by dry seasonal conditions have a number of programs available to them to help manage through these challenging times and prepare their farm business for the future.
Eligible farmers are invited to apply for a one-off payment of $2,500 for Northern Victorian dairy farmers that are FHA recipients and/or young dairy farmers.
By Rob Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shannessy
The Victorian Government is providing ongoing support to farmers and communities through a number of programs.
Young farmers are over 18 and under 35 years of age as of June 30, 2019. Call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit www.ruralfinance.com.au
On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants
Grants of up to $5,000 are available to eligible farm businesses in Northern and North West Victoria. Eligible farm businesses are required to provide at least dollar for dollar matching funding cocontribution. The grants will assist farm businesses implement on-farm infrastructure that improves drought management and preparedness. The program is now available to eligible farm businesses in the following Local Government Areas: Campaspe, Gannawarra, Swan Hill, Mildura, Hindmarsh, Yarriambiack and Buloke. Call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit www.ruralfinance. com.au
Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS)
Additional funding to support the RFCS provide free financial counselling to farmers and small related businesses who are in, or at risk of, financial hardship. Counsellors can assist applicants to apply for the Farm Household Allowance.
inter-row sowing wheat
Call 1800 686 175 (toll free) or call: North East RFCS - 1300 834 775 North West RFCS - 1300 769 489 Western RFCS - 1300 735 578 1
Look Over the Farm Gate
This program provides funding for community events and activities. Training and presentations on wellbeing, dealing with on-farm stress and other issues are also available. Call the Victorian Farmers Federation on 1300 882 833 or visit www.lookoverthefarmgate. org.au
On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme
This scheme is available to assist farmers impacted by drought and dry seasonal conditions invest in urgently needed onfarm water infrastructure that
address animal welfare needs. The rebate funding is being made available by the Australian Government. Call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit www.ruralfinance. com.au
Technical and decisionmaking support and information
Agriculture Victoria also works with a range of partners to provide workshops for farmers to help them make the most of seasonal conditions.
To seek more general information about events and to discuss if it is possible to hold a session in your area, please either drop into or call your local office or Customer Service Centre on 136 186. Remember the latest information is always available at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/ dryseasons
Rob Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shannessy, on (03) 5362 0715 or mobile 0400 821 588. Email â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert.Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;shannessy@ ecodev.vic.gov.au
These can be part of an ongoing program or arranged specifically if the need arises.
Seasonal Conditions By Kate Wilson
Senior Consultant AGRIvision Consultants PTY LTD As I write the report in Mid-May for the Winter edition of The Mallee Farmer, I find ourselves at the crossroads of a season yet again.
Some areas received a small, breaking type rain in the first week of May which settled the dust for the remainder of sowing.
Many parts of the Mallee are desperately dry, with little summer rainfall, a non-existent break and little in-season rain.
There have been some follow up rains in some areas but not all.
It is the perennial problem for Mallee growers as we challenge ourselves to set up crops to their full potential whilst barely being able to see the sowing tines at night during sowing. Never is auto steer more loved than night time dry sowing!! Dry sowing of vetch and hay paddocks commenced from as early as May in some areas and followed on with dry-sown canola, lentils and even Imi-tolerant Barley and wheat. 2
Some paddocks that had Summer moisture actually germinated without an opening rain and this will potentially present issues with postemergent herbicides, especially in canola where it is imperative that the grass selective application is made prior to the 8 leaf stage of the crop. Many of the dry sown cereals are filthy with grass and this too will need prompt application of grass control herbicides.
Hay will again play an important role in the Mallee rotation. What was once a salvage tool to clean up a dirty or frosted cereal crop, has now become an entrenched tool in the system.
The advent of a number of new export buyers and storage facilities, along with an unprecedented demand for domestic hay has seen growers trending towards a solid portion of their rotation into a designated hay crop. A well-planned approach to growing hay and a plan for storage ensures a quality and highly marketable product.
It is extremely important at this time of the year to re-assess yield potential on a crop by crop and paddock by paddock basis. Moisture is King in the Mallee and Nitrogen runs a close second. For those areas that received substantial Summer rainfall, there is significant yield potential and those paddocks must have their Nitrogen requirement matched to that potential. Talk with your trusted advisor about establishing yield potential based on available sub-soil moisture and then fertilise accordingly. There are countless stories from last Season’s drought of unbelievable yields where crops with sub-soil moisture were fertilised to their potential, and achieved phenomenal yields.
One of the range of rippers in action
A very successful deep-ripping demonstration day was held at Ian and Mick Hastings property at Timberoo in March. It was the brainchild of Agrivision’s Brad Bennett and his idea was to get a number of different machines in the paddock and give a practical demonstration to growers as to how the different machines operated. MSF assisted Agrivision Consultants with the delivery of the day under the GRDC supported Sandy Soils Project, with over 200 Mallee Farmers benefiting from the insights of CSIRO’s Lynne Mc Donald,
PIRSA’s Mel Fraser and deep ripping expert Wayne Parker, Research Officer from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in WA. An evaluation conducted by Mallee Sustainable Farming on the day uncovered 28% intend ripping 10-20% of the farm in the next 5 years, and 20% intend to rip more than 20% of the farm in the next 5 years. This is very much a “watch this space” area of broadacre cropping and could represent a new frontier in the production capabilities of our sandy soils.
Deep Ripping demo day participants compare deep ripping machinery
Ripping into Mallee Soils â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Key Considerations By Kate Finger, Graduate Research Agronomist
Figure 1. Soil clods from the dune (left) and swale (right) after ripping at Woomelang.
& Audrey Delahunty
up the compacted layer by deep ripping. Research trials in Western Australia, have Deep ripping trials established demonstrated that significant in 2018 across the South yield improvements are Australian and Victorian achievable on sandy soils, Mallee demonstrated that yield where anecdotal evidence Ripping into Mallee Soils â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Key Considerations responses are highly variable suggests that the benefits of By Kate Finger & Audrey Delahunty and dependent on a range of deep ripping last for about three factors including soil type, subsoil seasons. Furthermore, when Deep ripping trials established in 2018 across the South Australian and Victorian Mallee demonstrated that yield responses are highly variable and dependent on a range of factors including soil type, subsoil constraints and ripping depth. combined with a Controlled constraints and ripping depth. Traffic Farming (CTF) system BACKGROUND growers have reported that Background Random and excessive machinery traffic within paddocks is a contributing factor to the development Random and excessive increased yield responses can of subsoil compaction which is known to limit crop production. Forming as layers, typically found at depths between 10-60cm, subsoil compaction has been shown to reduce water infiltration and restrict machinery traffic within be prolonged for up to 10 years. root access to stored nutrients and water. One remediation option is to mechanically break up the paddocks is a contributing compacted layer by deep ripping. Research trials in Western Australia, have demonstrated that factor to the development of Results significant yield improvements are achievable on sandy soils, where anecdotal evidence suggests that the benefits of deep ripping for about three Furthermore, when combined with a subsoil compactionlast which is seasons. Research trials (replicated Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) system growers have reported that increased yield responses can be known to limit crop production. a minimum of 4 times) were prolonged to up to 10 years. Forming as layers, typically established on commercial RESULTS found at between atcommercial Woomelang, Research trials depths (replicated a minimum of 104 times) paddocks were established on paddocks at Woomelang, Vic and Kooloonong, Vic in conjunction with and demonstration sites (non-replicated) 60cm, subsoil compaction Vic Kooloonong, Vic at in Kinnabulla, Vic, Loxton, SA and Paruna, SA to determine the effect of deep ripping, with and without has been shown to reduce conjunction with demonstration inclusion plates on crop yield. These trials were part of a multistate Grains Research Development water infiltration and restrict sites (non-replicated) at Cooperation funded project which evaluated drivers to increase the adoption of CTF systems within the region. root access to stored nutrients Kinnabulla, Vic, Loxton, SA and and water. One remediation Paruna, SA to determine the Table 1. Summary of deep ripping sites established in 2018 and their yield responses compared to the un-ripped control. option is to mechanically break effect of deep ripping, with and Agriculture Victoria
Sand over sandy loam (dune) Sandy loam over clay loam (swale)
Sandy loam & sandy clay loam over medium to heavy clay
Deep sand to loamy sand
-0.3t/ha to nil
+0.5t/ha (swale) +1.1t/ha (dune)
+0.3t/ha (swale) -0.6 t/ha (dune)
+0.3t/ha (swale) +1.0t/ha (dune)
+0.3t/ha (swale) -0.4t/ha (dune)
Known responsive soil type
Known responsive soil type
Known responsive soil type/ ripping depth (25-35cm on dune)
Yield Response (- plates) Yield Response (+ plates) Why?
Subsoil Ripping depth constraints (av. 20cm) (high B)
Table 1. Summary of deep ripping sites established in 2018 and their yield responses compared to the un-ripped control.
without inclusion plates on crop yield. These trials were part of a multistate Grains Research Development Cooperation funded project which evaluated drivers to increase the adoption of CTF systems within the region.
Woomelang, Victoria The trial site was split over two different soils types; a brown sandy loam over clay loam on a swale and a light brown sand over sandy loam on the dune (Table 1). Wheat (cv. Scout) was sown on 25 May 2018 into lentil stubble. Deep ripping to an average depth of 20cm on the swale and dune with and without inclusion plates resulted in no significant yield response (P<0.05), despite the hard pan being partially broken, evident by the massive clods on the surface (Figure 1). Kooloonong, Victoria This trial was established over a dune and sown to wheat (cv. Scepter) on 7 May 2018 into lupin stubble. Deep ripping to depths of around 40cm successfully shattered the hard pan with yield improvements of 0.5t/ha recorded. No significant difference was observed between ripping with (1.5t/ha) and without (1.6t/ha) inclusion plates (P<0.05). Demonstration Sites Mixed results were observed at
Figure 2. Control strip (left) compared to deep ripped strip (right) at Loxton.
the demonstration sites (Table 1) with negative to negligible yield responses recorded at Kinnabulla, after ripping to 40-50 cm. The deep sands at Loxton, ripped to between 40 and 50cm had yield increases of 1.1t/ ha (dune) and 0.5t/ha (swale) compared to the non-ripped control (Figure 2). Likewise, at Paruna when deep ripped to 3540cm, a 0.5t/ha yield increase was recorded on the swale. On the Paruna dune however, shallower ripping depths were achieved; this coupled with frost damage saw a yield penalty of 0.4-0.6 t/ha after deep ripping.
Implications Of The Findings
The immediate value of deep ripping was highlighted from these trials to be dependent on soil type, subsoil constraints and ripping depth. The deep sandy soils were observed to have the greatest yield response, consistent with research from other local trials lead by Frontier Farming Systems. For the current trials, there was no clear and consistent difference between ripping with and without inclusion plates in the short term. Multi-year studies are required to assess the longterm value of deep ripping in the Mallee environment as it is an expensive operation.
Key messages for growers to consider before putting tines in the ground are:
1. Undertake soil tests to depth prior to deep ripping to establish if other subsoil constraints are present and address them first or in conjunction with the deep ripping operation. 2. Identify what depth the soil compaction is and aim to rip deeper than this depth, as partially shattering the compacted layer will not sufficiently remediate it. Compacted layer depth can be determined by a soil penetrometer or poking a pole/stick with markers to indicate depth, where the pressure required increases is the compacted zone and beyond this point it becomes easier to push again below the compacted zone. 3. Moist soil is easier to deep rip compared to dry soil conditions as less fuel and draft is required. 4. Plant establishment can be affected after deep ripping; consider rolling prior to sowing to better prepare the seedbed.
Please contact Kate Finger at email@example.com or on 0448 823 353 for more information.
This research was funded by the ‘Improving practices and adoption through strengthening D&E capability and delivery in the southern region’ Regional Research Agronomists program (DAV00143) as part of the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) and Agriculture Victoria – Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), Bilateral Research Agreement, in conjunction with the ‘Application of CTF in the Low Rainfall Zone’ project (ACT00004) funded by the GRDC and participating partners. The authors also wish to acknowledge the assistance of our growers, Darrell Boxall, Alistair Murdoch, Linc Lehmann, Robin Schaefer and Jock McNeil for their time and use of their land as well as other key contributors to this work including: Nigel Wilhelm, Peter Fisher, Darryl Pearl, Claire Browne & Jeff Tullberg.
associated with a dune-swale system in the Mallee. This pot trial was conducted in a glassho also tested the effect of plant available water on nutrient availability and grain yield.
Organic amendments and lentil growth in Mallee soils
By Mitchell Fromm, Jason Brand, Audrey Delahunty, James Nuttall Agriculture Victoria
In just the last 12 years, lentil production in the Victorian Mallee has increased tenfold to 13.4% of the total cropped area. New lentil cultivars adapted to dry environments and improved farming systems combined with the rotational and economic benefits to growers have driven this increase. Within Mallee dryland cropping systems, sandy soils typically have lower production potential compared with mid slope and swale regions due to their low cation exchange capacity, water holding capacity and infertility. This can lead to poor growth and yield and can leave the soil exposed to erosion over harvest. As a result, production potential and yield stability of lentil across the Mallee can be highly variable. This trial investigated the effect of organic amendments (poultry litter at 3t/ha and almond hulls at 2.2t/ha) in comparison to di-ammonium phosphate (DAP at 50kg/ha) across three different soil types associated with a dune-swale system in the Mallee. This pot trial was conducted in a glasshouse and also tested the effect of plant available water on nutrient availability and grain yield. 6
Figure 1. A diagram Figure diagram of of the the soil soil make-up make-up of of each each pot pot (top (top left) left) and and aa photo photo of of the the seeding seeding process process and initial of application of fertiliser the starter(top fertiliser (topand middle) four(top photos initial application the starter middle) four and photos right(top andright all bottom andgrowth all bottom) showing key stages duringkey thegrowth seasonstages during the season.
Results and Discussion increased grain set by 33, Results and Discussion The addition of poultry litter increased grain yieldand on the sand compared dune by 33% compared 21% to the with The addition of poultry litter 45 increase with fertiliser and a 7% decrease from almond hulls as compared to the nil fertiliser nil, almond hull and fertiliser
increased grain yield on the sand dune by 33% compared with an 8% increase with fertiliser and a 7% decrease from almond hulls as compared to the nil fertiliser treatment (Fig 2). Poultry litter increased yield by 6, 29 and 24% compared with the fertiliser treatment for the swale, mid-slope and dune soils respectively. In contrast, where almond hulls were applied, yield was consistently lower than for fertiliser treatments across all respective soil types, which may reflect tie-up of nitrogen due to the high C:N ratio of the hulls The pattern of yield response in lentil reflected the visual preflowering biomass accumulation (Fig 1) and the grain set (Table 1), whereas there was no effect of soil amendment or soil type on grain weight. Poultry litter
treatments respectively (Table 1). Importantly these results highlight the value of poultry litter increasing the productivity of sandy dune type soils to the equivalent productivity to that was seen in the heavier swale soil type.
Implications of the findings
For three Mallee soils which represented a dune, mid-slope and swale system, the additional of poultry litter improved lentil growth and yield compared to the other treatments. Where almond hulls were applied, yield was consistently lower than for DAP and chicken litter treatments across all respective soil types. Overall, these results highlight the value of poultry litter in increasing productivity on sand dune type soils closer
fertiliser treatments respectively (Table 1). Importantly these results highlight the value of poultry litter increasing the productivity of sandy dune type soils to the equivalent productivity to that was seen in the heavier swale soil type.
foundation of positive research in the region suggesting that the additional of chicken litter is beneficial to sustainable agricultural practices in the future.
Table2. Lentil 1. grain Lentil grain yield across forthreealldifferent Figure yield for all amendments soil types. Amendments testedpractices were the ‘Improving and almond hulls, poultryacross litter and fertiliser Soil was extracted from the dune, mid-slope and swale amendments three (DAP). different soil region of a Mallee dune system. Lsd for the interaction between the amendment and through soil is shown (Lsd = adoption strengthening types. Amendments tested were almond 2). hulls, poultry litter and fertiliser (DAP). D&E capability and delivery in Soil was extracted from the dune, midthe southern region’, Regional Implications of the findings slope swale region of a aMallee dune and swale system, the additional of For threeand Mallee soils which represented dune, mid-slope Research system. Lsd forlentil thegrowth interaction between poultry litter improved and yield compared to the other treatments. Where almond hullsAgronomists were yield was consistently than for DAP and chicken litter treatments across all the applied, amendment and soillower is shown (Lsd (DAV00143) as part respective soil types. Overall, these results highlight the value ofprogram poultry litter in increasing = 2). productivity on sand dune type soils closer to the productivity of the heavier swale soil type. Ongoing
of the Grains Research and Development Corporation to the productivity of the heavier (GRDC) and Agriculture swale soil type. Ongoing work Acknowledgments Victoria - Department of Jobs, This was funded byto the ‘Improving and adoption through strengthening D&E is work required furtherpractices assess Precincts and Regions (DJPR), capability and delivery in the southern region’, Regional Research Agronomists program (DAV00143) as part of the Grains and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Agriculture the benefits andResearch practicality Bilateral Research Agreement. Victoria - Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), Bilateral Research Agreement. The of implementing authors also wish to acknowledge chicken the assistance of litter Frontier Farming Systems in supporting thealso The authors wish to experimental program. and other organic products into acknowledge the assistance Mallee farming systems. This of Frontier Farming Systems will be important to explore in in supporting the experimental the future as there is a good program.
work is required to further assess the benefits and practicality of implementing chicken litter and other organic products into Mallee farming systems. This will be important to explore in the future as there is a good foundation of positive research in the region suggesting that the additional of chicken litter is beneficial to sustainable agricultural practices in the future.
New GRDC Grower Relations Manager Appointed By Sharon Watt GRDC Communications Manager The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has enhanced its regional presence in Victoria, with Grower Relations Manager – South, Courtney Ramsey, now based in Horsham. Courtney is located at the Grains Innovation Park agricultural research, development and extension precinct. While Victoria’s Wimmera is some distance away from South Australia’s upper Eyre Peninsula, where she was born and raised, Courtney is already
at home in her new working environment. “I am really enjoying learning about and gaining an understanding of the different farming systems and idiosyncrasies of Victoria’s various regions,” Courtney said. “Horsham is a great agricultural hub with a strong research contingent, but I’m also looking forward to getting out and about and talking to growers from all parts of Victoria and across the whole GRDC Southern Region, which includes Tasmania and SA. “The Grower Relations Manager role, which I have held since August 2018, is essentially about
Courtney Ramsey, settling in to her new Grower Relations role
engaging with growers to better understand the constraints and opportunities they face in their farming systems, helping to identify gaps in research and where applicable, building business cases for investment around those issues.” Courtney is one of 21 GRDC staff now located in the Southern Region. Many of the GRDC’s business units – including applied research and development, business and commercial, genetic and enabling technologies, and grower extension and communications – are represented by staff who have been positioned in the south as part of the regional “hub and spoke” organisation model. Courtney said that part of the rationale for having a Grower Relations Manager on the ground in Victoria was to help facilitate the two-way exchange of information with growers about how their levies are invested.
all they ever see is a small snapshot of the broad array of investments. “With such an extensive list of active GRDC projects, growers can’t possibly be expected to be right across the investment portfolio. If growers do have questions around what research is happening on a particular subject, I’m here to help with the answers. “I encourage growers and other grains industry personnel to give me a call at any time – and they are most welcome to drop into my office in Horsham if they’re passing by.” Courtney has had diverse exposure to the agriculture industry, commencing her career in herbicide tolerance research
at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) before moving home to the family farm at Buckleboo on Eyre Peninsula to work for a neighbour as a farm hand. Prior to joining the GRDC in October 2017, Courtney worked as an adviser in SA state politics and was the President of young farmer group, SA Next Gen. She has a Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) with First Class Honours in functional genomics (Plant and Pest Science). She wrote a monthly opinion column in the Stock Journal newspaper on issues related to farming and rural communities, and was also the Rural Ambassador for Australasia in 2014. Courtney can be contacted via 0428 274 018 or Courtney. firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos courtesy GRDC
“The GRDC currently invests in more than 700 projects at any one point in time, so whenever people hear about a project,
Evaporative protection in wheat By James Nuttall, Audrey limit evaporative water losses Delahunty, Garry O’Leary, in-season, could improve yield stability of crops. If an economic Ashley Wallace Agriculture Victoria
In dryland cropping regions, where rainfall during the growing season is low and unreliable, water storage and conservation within the soil for crop use is vital for buffering dry periods. Management practices which 8
method of using polymers or other cover material for protecting against evaporative losses within crops could be applied, this would increase the proportion of water used by the crop compared with evaporative losses, providing the industry with tools to increase yield within semi-arid cropping
environments. To determine the impact of inter-row evaporative water loss on crop yield, we tested the concept of protecting the inter-row region of wheat crops grown at Longerenong, Victoria from evaporative loss using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) covers. We also tested the comparative effectiveness of an alginate based spray-on polymer and a 5t/ha stubble mat on wheat growth.
maturity (Mt to Mat), heading to maturity (Hd to Mat) and mid-tillering to heading (Mt to Hd). Lease significant difference (lsd) is for the interactive effect of these two treatments.
Protection method PVC Spray on polymer Stubble mat lsd (P<0.001)
Yield (t/ha) Protection window Mt to Mat Hd to Mat 1.69 1.21 1.11 1.03 1.15 0.18
No cover 1.13
Mt to Hd 1.61
flowering biomass by 26% which was significantly less compared to where there was a cover. Evidently the greatest benefit of inter-row cover on crop growth occurred under drier conditions. Applying PVC inter-row cover
Comparison of wheat (cv. Scepter) yield for a range of inter-row cover (protection) methods from mid-tillering to both heading applied across three different windows during the growing season. Protection windows For the spray on polymer, applied at both mid-tillering and heading, there was no yield advantage were mid-tillering to maturity (Mt to Mat), heading to maturity (Hd to Mat) and mid-tillering and maturity significantly to heading (Mt to Hd). Lease significant difference (lsd) is for the interactive effect of these compared with crops where there was no inter-row cover (Table 1). The inconsistency between the increased yield by 42 and 50% two treatments.
response of PVC and the spray-on polymer may be due to the formulation being semi-permeable to respectively compared with water and/or the longevity of cover before breakdown, which did not adequately protect against where there was no inter-row Methods Results surface evaporation of soil water. For the stubble mat imposed at mid-tillering (straw horizontal and A field trial was established Where inter-row PVC cover was cover (Table 1). This increase aligned), at 5 t/ha within the inter-row, there was no yield benefit compared with the control. in yield was linked with a 50
Anthesis biomass (t/ha)
where wheat (cv. Scepter) was Implications of findings sown at 89 kg/ha on the 19 June 2018 using knife points and press wheels at 30 cm row spacing, cross sown into a 1.1 t/ha standing wheat stubble at Longerenong, Victoria. A range of inter-row evaporative protection methods, timing of protection and growing season water treatments were imposed as follows: i) Protection method (nil; PVC - 225 mm half pipe cover; spray-on polymer (alginate based) and stubble mat at 5t/ha) ii) Protection timing (mid-tillering to heading; midtillering to maturity and heading to maturity) and iii) Growing season water (low water (LW), rainfed; high water (HW), rainfed + 20 mm irrigation at mid-tillering). 5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0
imposed at mid-tillering for LW crops, flowering biomass was equivalent to where crops had an additional 20 mm of irrigation applied at mid-tillering and were uncovered (Fig. 1). Moreover, for crops with inter-row cover, growth was equivalent across water treatments (4.3 t/ha), whereas for those crops with no cover, irrigation increased
and 53% increase in grain set respectively. The effect of removing the PVC inter-row cover at heading (mid-tillering to heading treatment) was a significant reduction in kernel size compared with all other treatments (data not shown), indicating that the absence of post-flowering protection
PVC inter-row lsd (P<0.01) cover
rainfed + 20mm
Figure 1. Comparison of wheat (cv. Scepter) growth (t/ha) up to flowering (anthesis) for crops where a Comparison of wheat (cv. Scepter) growth factorial combination of inter-row cover (no cover and PVC) and external water supply (rainfed and rainfed (t/ha) up to flowering (anthesis) for crops + 20mm) were tested. Least significant difference (lsd) is for the interactive effect of method of cover and where a factorial combination of inter-row irrigation. cover (no cover and PVC) and external water supply (rainfed and rainfed + 20mm) Applying PVC inter-row cover from mid-tillering to both heading and maturity significantly increased were tested. Least significant difference yield by 42 and 50% respectively compared with where there was no inter-row cover (Table 1). This (lsd) is for the interactive effect of method ofincrease in yield was linked with a 50 and 53% increase in grain set respectively. The effect of cover and irrigation. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) covers applied to crop inter-rows in wheat. removing the PVC inter-row cover at heading (mid-tillering to heading treatment) was a significant reduction in kernel size compared with all other treatments (data not shown), indicating that the absence of post-flowering protection increased late water stress and limited grain-filling. When PVC
increased late water stress and limited grain-filling. When PVC inter-row cover was restricted to the heading to maturity growth window, there was no significant increase in yield compared with the uncovered control. For the spray on polymer, applied at both mid-tillering and heading, there was no yield advantage compared with crops where there was no inter-row cover (Table 1). The inconsistency between the response of PVC and the spray-on polymer may be due to the formulation being semi-permeable to water and/or the longevity of cover before breakdown, which did not adequately protect against surface evaporation of soil water. For the stubble mat imposed at mid-tillering (straw horizontal and aligned), at 5 t/ha within the inter-row, there was no yield benefit compared with the control.
Implications of findings
Overall, inter-row protection using PVC demonstrated the benefits of water conservation and/or concentration of water shed to the crop row region on yield (up to 50% increase), applied in a decile 2 growing season. For the alternative protection approaches tested, we could not demonstrate a yield benefit of the spray-on polymer and manipulation of stubble presentation to limit inter-row surface evaporation. The methods tested offer potential management options that could be imposed by industry to protect against evaporative losses in crop, where next steps include testing other polymer formulations, stubble presentation methods or canopy designs to limit the impact on evaporative losses of soil water, in-season, like that observed when using the PVC cover.
Spray-on alginate polymer and testing inter-row evaporative protection in wheat.
Further information and contact details
Dr James Nuttall, james. email@example.com, 03 53622111
This work was funded by the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Improving practices and adoption through strengthening D&E capability and delivery in the southern regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, Regional Research Agronomists program (DAV00143) as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Agriculture Victoria - Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), Bilateral Research Agreement. The authors also wish to acknowledge the assistance of Birchip Cropping Group in delivery of this experimental project.
Volunteers wanted for the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group By Gareth Lynch
Project Officer, Mallee Catchment Management Authority Volunteers are wanted to assist the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group (VMRG) in undertaking their annual Malleefowl mound monitoring during spring 2019. “The VMRG together with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is encouraging community members to become new volunteers to participate in undertaking annual Malleefowl mound monitoring which will contribute to determining Malleefowl breeding trends on a national scale,” said Mallee CMA Regional Land Partnerships Project Officer Gareth Lynch.
On-ground works will involve the re-connection and enhancement of fragmented habitat Malleefowl populations within the Berrook, Bronzewing, and Yaapeet State Forests. In addition, an adaptive predator experiment will be undertaken at Annuello Fauna and Flora (FFR) and Wandown FFR which will investigate the effects of predation on Malleefowl population dynamics and provide information on the effectiveness of baiting strategies at reducing fox numbers. On-ground works will be delivered by Greening Australia, Department of Environment Land Water and Planning, Mildura Rural City Council, Yarriambiack Shire Council, National Malleefowl Recovery Group, and Annuello Landcare Group.
identifying trends in breeding at the sites. The VMRG website (http:// www.malleefowlvictoria.org. au/volunteering.html) outlines how prospective volunteers can become a new member of the VMRG. In addition, it also provides an overview of the range of steps including both historical and current methodology to enable monitors to successfully return to the location of every mound within a site. The key steps to establishing sites and attaining the required data are outlined below:
1. Establishment of monitoring sites
The sites are typically rectangles measuring approximately 2.0 km by 2.0 km and cover several
VMRG has been undertaking monitoring of Malleefowl mounds on a regular basis over the past 20 years, with data providing valuable information on the breeding behaviour of the birds. The Mallee CMA has been successful in gaining funding under the Australian Government’s Regional Land Partnership program to undertake a wide range of onground works for the conservation of Malleefowl, which is nationally listed as vulnerable under the Environment and Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
As a result the Mallee CMA is encouraging local community members to become members of the VMRG to assist in the monitoring of Malleefowl mounds in sites adjacent to these target areas, which will contribute to
hundred hectares. However, the sizes do vary considerably and they may take advantage of a particular geographical feature, such as an irrigation channel, rather than conform to the normal rectangular style. 11
The mounds within a grid have all been mapped accurately with a GPS. A mound might be currently active, previously active, one used for practice or partially completed. The number of mounds within a site varies from about 15 to more than 100. Birds tend to renovate old mounds rather than construct new ones. However, they do occasionally construct new mounds, and these are mapped as they are found.
2. Working the sites
Prior to the advent of GPS devices it was necessary to locate each mound using marked grid lines, compasses and paced stepping. This could take quite some time, depending on whether the volunteer was working alone or in a pair, the volunteerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s familiarity with the terrain and the density of the bush. The advent of GPS trackers made short work (relatively) of finding the mounds. Together with smart phones and GPS units, the recording of data in the field has become quite high tech.
3. Recording the Data
4. Quantification of different categories of flora. 5. Physical measurement the mound.
6. Collection, for later analysis, of any Malleefowl or fox scat and Malleefowl feathers.
Historically, all Malleefowl grids were established on foot using a compass and on transect bearings. The use of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) contour mapping has allowed for the identification of Malleefowl nests. This essentially involves an aerial survey using the LiDAR technology followed by a ground truthing to verify potential nest sites. Using the standard Malleefowl grid procedures, a new grid is formed and monitored annually using the current VMRG monitoring methodology.
As a part of the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Regional Land Partnership Mallee Threatened Species Services Project, the Mallee CMA is working with the National Malleefowl Recovery Team to commission LiDAR flights within Annuello/
Recording the data at a mound encompasses a number of distinct phases, as summarised below. 1. A visual examination of the mound before moving too close to it. This is particularly important for active mounds. 2. A photographic record of the mound. 3. A closer examination of the mound for signs of Malleefowl activity and for scats and tracks of native and feral animals. 12
Typical Malleefowl Mound (Nest)
Wandown areas to provide information on the whereabouts of mounds particularly in areas previously unsurveyed. However it will also value add to existing monitoring programs. Complimentary works are also being undertaken in the Berrook / Murray-Sunset NP region; and Bronzewing/Patchewollock / Wathe. As a result of these surveys, more volunteers will be required to assist in the annual monitoring of these new grids. All interested volunteers are encouraged to contact the VMRG and register their interest.
Becoming a member
The VMRG is a group of interested volunteers working with scientific guidance from a variety of scientists and the National Malleefowl Recovery Team. Volunteers undergo training in data collection and bush safety and then spend time in the field collecting data from nest sites within a defined grid in the Victorian Mallee Country. The VMRG conducts an annual Training Weekend on the 2nd weekend of October at the Wonga Campground, Wyperfeld National Park. The training is
Further information The
Weed management strategies to address herbicide resistance
New ideas the key to farming in Werrimull
ISSUE 09 • Winter 2015
This project is supported by Mallee Catchment Management
F O R FA R ME R S I N T H E MA LLE E R E G I O N
An insight into biodynamic farming in Murrayville
Gareth Lynch on (03)50514377, Email gareth.lynch@malleecma. com.au Using harvest weed seed management to win the fight against brome grass p2
Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA),
For more information on the Regional Land Partnership’s Mallee Threatened Species Services Project, contact the Mallee CMA Regional Land Partnerships Project Officer Gareth Lynch on 03 5051 4377 or visit the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au
to be mailed a copy of the Mallee Farmer?
complete the membership form which is located at: http:// www.malleefowlvictoria.org.au/ newMembers.html
through funding from theAustralian Government’s National Landcare Programme.
Mallee Farmer are produced each year. The spring edition is uly–August and the autumn edition is released around late March. If egister to have a copy mailed direct to you, fill out the form below and e Catchment Management Authority.
r Mallee Farmer mailing list
There is a small annual subscription, currently set at $35 for Individual Membership, $50 for Household Membership (which can include children 16 and under at no extra cost), $20 for Students with current ID, and $50 for Organisation Membership. To join, please
orm to the Mallee CMA via one of the following methods:
ned copy to firstname.lastname@example.org to 03 5051 4379. to: Mallee Farmer Subscriptions Mallee CMA PO Box 5017 Mildura Vic 3502 e and click on the link to subscribe at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au
ported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
mandatory for all prospective monitors. Training includes field work requirements, safety in the bush and use of the technology. The program starts at noon on Saturday and ends with lunch on Sunday.
Want to be mailed a copy of the Mallee Farmer? Two editions of the Mallee Farmer are produced each year. The Spring edition is available around July–August and the Autumn edition is released around late March. If you would like to register to have a copy mailed direct to you, fill out the form below and return to the Mallee Catchment Management Authority. Registration for the Mallee Farmer mailing list Name: ________________________________________________________ Postal address: _________________________________________________ Town: ______________________________________ State: _______________ Postcode: ______________ Email: ________________________________________________________ Please return form to the Mallee CMA via one of the following methods: 1. Email a scanned copy to email@example.com 2. Fax a copy to 03 5051 4379 3. Mail a copy to:
Mallee Farmer Subscriptions Mallee CMA PO Box 5017 Mildura Vic 3502
4. Jump online and click on the link to subscribe at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
Frost response in lentil By Audrey Delahunty, Eileen Perry, Kate Finger, Mitchell Fromm, James Nuttall
or late podding stage, where four imi lentil varieties (PBA Herald, PBA HurricaneXT, PBA HallmarkXT, CIPAL1721) and two conventional lines (PBA Jumbo 2 and PBA flash) were included.
susceptible to frost, indicating that imi tolerance was not linked to increased frost sensitivity under these conditions (Fig. 3a). Furthermore, the cumulative yield impact induced by the artificial frost applied at the late vegetative and podding stage, over the natural frost effects, were also equivalent for the conventional and imi varieties (Fig. 3b).
2018 season In 2018, the Mallee sustained a Agriculture Victoria significant number of frost days during late Winter and Spring Background (Fig. 2), coinciding with late For pooled response across Radiant frost can significantly vegetative and early reproductive conventional and imi varieties, reduce the yield and quality of phase of many crops. The trial there was an overall reduction lentil, with the greatest potential site 12 km north-west of Ouyen in grain yield of 13% due to for frost damage coinciding with recorded 37 mornings below natural frosts (average minimum flowering and the early to mid0°C at canopy height between -2.4°C), occurring during the pod filling period (Fig. 1). Over However, August and October, with vegetative phase. recent years, frost damage has temperatures dropping below when the artificial frosts (average occurred across widespread -2°C on 26 of these mornings. minimum -4.6°C) during the parts of the Mallee and has The crop canopy temperature reproductive phase were added Frost response in lentil caused significant reductions in was approximately 2°C lower to these, the average yield grain yield and quality. Recent than that recorded at 1.2 m reduction increased to 40% (Fig Audrey Delahunty, Eileen Perry, Kate Finger, Mitchell Fromm, James Nuttall (Agriculture Victoria) increases in the severity and above the ground surface in 3a). The effect of the applied duration of frost across southern a Stevenson screen, which frost was equivalent for the Background Australia, combined with earlier is the Bureau of Meteorology late vegetative and pod filling sowing, have increased crop Radiant frost can significantly reduce the yield and quality of lentil, with the greatest potential for standard. This demonstrates treatments. risk to frost damage. that crops were exposed to frost damage coinciding with flowering and the early to mid-pod filling period (Fig. 1). Over recent colder air temperatures than Implications of the years, frost damage has occurred across widespread parts of the Mallee and has caused significant This article reports on field those recorded by weather findings reductions in grain yield and quality. Recent increases in the severity and duration of frost across research conducted in response stations. Growing season Radiant frost continues to limit to the industry concern that southern Australia, combined with earlier sowing, have increased crop risk to frost damage. rainfall (April-October) was 93 production of lentil in southern imidazolinone (imi) lines have mm, substantially lower than the Australia, reducing grain yield increased susceptibility to frost This article reports on field research conducted in response to the industry concern that long-term average of 178 mm. and adversely affecting visual damage, where the relative imidazolinone (imi) lines have increase susceptibility to frost damage, where the relative response of quality. The current research response of imi lines were imi lines were compared with conventional varieties. Frost was applied using mobile frost chambers Variety response to frost demonstrated that under severe compared with conventional at either the late vegetative or late podding stage, where four imi lentil varieties (PBA Herald, PBA varieties. Frost was applied For the natural frost conditions frost conditions, conventional HurricaneXT, PBA HallmarkXT, CIPAL1721) and two conventional lines (PBA Jumbo 2 and PBA flash) using mobile frost chambers which occurred in 2018, and imi lines were equally at either the late vegetative all varieties were equally affected by frost during the late were included.
Figure 1. Frost damage in lentil pods, flowers and grain. The frost damage was caused by a frost during pod filling Figure 1. Frost damage in lentil pods, flowers and grain. The frost damage was caused by a frost during 14 pod filling
vegetative and reproductive period. This result suggests that the increased visual symptoms of frost damage in imi tolerant lines (Hurricane XT) observed by growers, does not correlate to increased susceptibility to yield loss. Ongoing research is required to improve risk associated with yield and quality loss of lentil though breeding and management solutions such as early detection through remote and proximal sensors to limit economic losses.
Reduce frost risk. In D.Reuter (Ed.), Managing frost risk - A guide for southern Australian grains. Canberra, ACT: South Australian Research and Development Institute Figure 2. Cumulative cold load °C.hr (<0°C) of natural frost recorded at the lentil canopy and Grains Research and during the reproductive period at the Ouyen trial site during 2018. Cold load °C.hr (<0°C) Figure 2. Cumulative cold load ⁰C.hr (<0⁰C) of natural frost recorded at the lentil canopy during the Figure 2. Cumulative cold load ⁰C.hr (<0⁰C) of natural frost rec is the total time and temperature (duration × intensity) crops were exposed to below zero Development reproductive period at the Ouyen trial site during 2018. Cold load ⁰C.hr (<0⁰C) is the total time and
degrees at canopy. reproductive period at the Ouyen trial site during 2018. Cold l
temperature (duration × intensity) crops were exposed to below zero degrees at canopy.
thetemperature (duration × intensity) crops were exposed to belo ‘Improving practices and Agreement. The authors Audrey Variety response to frost Delahunty on adoption through strengthening also wish to acknowledge audrey.j.delahunty@ecodev. D&E capability and delivery in the assistance of Frontier vic.gov.au or on 0427 580 131 theVariety response to frost southern region’, Regional Farming staff in delivery of the For the natural frost conditions which occurred in 2018, all varieties were equally susceptible to for more information. Research Agronomist program experimental program and also frost, indicating that imi tolerance was not linked to increased frost sensitivity under these (DAV00143) as part of the support from Agriculture Victoria For the natural frost conditions which occurred in 2018, all var conditions (Fig. 3a). Furthermore, the cumulative yield impact induced by the artificial frost applied Acknowledgments GRDC and Department of staff Ashley Purdue, Ashley frost, indicating that imi tolerance was not linked to increased at the late vegetative and podding stage, over the natural frost effects, were also equivalent for the This work was funded by Jobs, Precincts and Regions Wallace and Alexander Clancy.
conventional and imi varieties (Fig. 3b). conditions (Fig. 3a). Furthermore, the cumulative yield impact
at the late vegetative and podding stage, over the natural fros conventional and imi varieties (Fig. 3b).
Figure 3. Comparison of conventional to imi varieties tested in 2018 field trial at Ouyen. The differences in grain yield across conventional Figure 3. Comparison of conventional to imi varieties tested in 2018 field trial at Ouyen. The and imi varieties a) and the reduction in grain yield (%) of frost applied at vegetative and pod filling, compared to natural frost only b). Frost treatmentsdifferences in grain yield across conventional and imi varieties a), and the reduction in grain yield (%) are natural frost, applied at vegetative and natural frost, applied at reproductive and natural frost.
Many growers are asking how they can make their farming businesses ‘tech ready’ to capitalise on opportunities from digital agriculture Jo Fulwood
Western Region Correspondent - GroundCover™ Grain growers across the globe are starting to dip their toes into the new world of digital agriculture, using an array of technologies such as satellite and multi-spectral imagery, smart data-collecting sensors, and moisture and soil-testing probes in an attempt to improve profits in their broadacre businesses. While much has been written about autonomous vehicles, this is one area of the technological revolution that has yet to take off in mainstream broadacre agriculture, although experts say the use of the technology is not far away from being commonplace in the industry. To that end, growers have been asking how they can ensure their businesses are set up correctly to allow for an easy transition when these machines become practically and financially accessible to all growers. 16
According to Kondinin Group’s chief research engineer Ben White and Birchip Cropping Group’s commercial services manager Cameron Taylor, autonomous technology will open up a world of efficiencies for broadacre grain growers. Both agree for growers to be early adopters, not only must their farm businesses be ‘tech ready’, but the rest of the supply chain must also invest in understanding the technology. Mr White believes it will be a matter of years, not decades, before autonomous vehicles will be available on a widespread, financially accessible scale. “There is a lot of talk about what we might see in the future, and while much of the technology can’t yet be purchased at your local dealer, what growers can do now is prepare their business for when these machines become available,” he says. “The decisions we make now will affect a business’s ability to easily adopt that technology as and when it becomes more commonplace.” Mr Taylor agrees, suggesting once these types of machines are available at local and regional machinery dealers the uptake will be significant among Australian growers. “There have been studies done on the uptake of technology within agricultural industries in Australia and the US, and anything that involves automation has a high uptake level simply because growers find this type of technology easy to incorporate immediately into their business,” Mr Taylor says.
“But when it comes to other types of technology and digital applications, such as data entry and analysis, the uptake is much slower because this is much more difficult to comprehend and often more difficult to see how it will improve efficiencies and profits.”
Growers already using a controlled-traffic farming (CTF) system are obviously best placed to adopt autonomous technology, Mr White says, with multiples of swathe widths an easy fit for autonomous vehicles. In fact, using autonomous machines to renovate wheel tracks might be one of the starting points into the world of machinery automation. “The obvious challenges of fences, rocky paddocks, powerlines and other inpaddock obstacles may not be as hard to overcome as first thought,” Mr White says. “Permanent structures, for example power poles, will be easy to avoid and, in most cases, autonomous vehicles will be able to find more efficient ways to navigate these sorts of obstacles than our current conventional machinery.” He says mapping out exact pathways these futuristic autonomous machines will take across the paddock is something growers should be thinking about right now, even if they are not set up for CTF. Beefwood Farms, located between Moree, NSW, and Goondiwindi, Queensland, is one of the few farming operations in Australia using autonomous vehicles in the business.
Manager Glenn Coughran says when looking at ways to be more efficient, autonomous vehicles were an obvious fit, given the business has been operating on CTF principles for many years. Most of the paddocks across the numerous Beefwood Farms properties are between 500 and 1000 hectares, and run lines can be up to five kilometres long. The business retrofitted a Fendt 936 tractor, which can now autonomously pull a weed spot sprayer and renovate tramlines. But Mr Coughran does not see the business moving into autonomous seeding or harvesting machinery immediately.
for autonomous machines to overcome, he says. “Identifying areas that are regularly waterlogged might be something growers need to start thinking about in the transition to autonomy, but those random wet patches in the paddock could prove to be a challenge, and I don’t believe autonomous vehicles have had technology developed to overcome this challenge yet.”
Sensor technology on automated machines will assist these machines to move efficiently across paddocks, avoiding obstacles and mapping paddock information, creating artificially intelligent machines that know your paddocks almost better than a regular operator would. “For example, these sensors will be recording a huge range of data, such as wheel slippage, soil and ambient temperature, disease and pest loads on crops, to build a bank of knowledge for future use,” Mr White says. Areas that are waterlogged might be a bit more of a challenge
“Also, nothing replaces the ground-truthing that takes place when a grower is spraying a paddock or planting the crop.”
Mr Taylor says the business case for purchasing autonomous vehicles is relatively easy to prove when compared with some other agricultural digital technologies – with the cost of the machine as the major outlay.
“It’s those tasks that require very minimal input from the driver that we believe are perfectly suited to this type of technology,” he says. “When we are seeding or harvesting, the operator still has to make many decisions, so it’s not something that we will be moving into anytime soon.”
“Because many farm businesses have paddocks separated by public roads, there will need to be the capability for growers to be able to drive these machines, so multi-use vehicles might be more useful than single automated systems,” he says.
“A grower can compare this cost with his or her other machinery expenses, then add in the savings from reducing labour costs,” he says. Mr. White: autonomous technology will open up efficiencies.
Regulations and laws
Mr White says there are no overarching regulations governing the use of automated machines on farms, but this could change in the future. “Machinery manufacturers are directly involved in discussions around this issue and over time we could see the introduction of charters that guide the use of autonomous machines, but there isn’t anything in concrete at this stage,” he says. Mr Taylor believes the first step towards automation will be retrofitting conventional machinery, just as Beefwood Farms has done, to allow growers to jump back into the sprayer or tractor when they need to.
“Unlike a lot of other digital expenses, the cost–benefit analysis for the purchase and operation of an autonomous vehicle will be quite transparent and it will be easy to see if the business will benefit from moving into this field of technology.” At Beefwood Farms, Mr Coughran says, it took several years for the budget to be in the black after investing in the autonomous technology. “We have saved on labour costs, but it took a lot of time and investment in the R&D of the software to ensure it was right for our business,” he says. “It was definitely a trial-and-error process but it’s starting to pay off now.” 17
and what is a waste of time and money.
An early adopter of autonomous vehicle technology, Beefwood Farms manager Glenn Coughran.
The key to early adoption of this type of technology and other digital applications that can improve yields and profits is education, Mr Taylor suggests. He believes autonomous vehicles can only be widely adopted if the rest of the industry is on the same page. “We need a whole education process that goes right across all parts of the supply chain, because growers won’t be able to adopt this type of technology if the backup and technical support is not there to assist them,” he says. The Birchip Cropping Group has been working closely with the Victorian Government to develop training programs that will help growers and industry to better understand the nuts and bolts of precision agriculture and digital technologies. The Agriculture Technology Innovation Development and Extension (AgTIDE) Program is a multi-tiered program targeted at growers, agronomists, industry groups and researchers. Mr Taylor hopes the program will be replicated across the country. Mr Taylor says part of the training 18
involves understanding the economics of putting automation and precision technologies into a farming business. “Growers need to work out if these types of technologies are going to improve their profits and, likewise, the machinery dealers need to understand the value proposition of this new technology,” he says. Adrian Roles, who farms at Young, New South Wales, has been working closely with Mr Taylor and the Birchip Cropping Group to develop these training programs to ensure growers appreciate which new technologies will benefit their businesses. Mr Roles believes many growers may not necessarily understand what is useful technology and what is a waste of money. While he has been dabbling in technology on his mixedfarming enterprise for almost two decades, he says a trialand-error approach might be the only way growers discover what works for their farm business. He says there will almost certainly be financial losses involved as growers work out what is beneficial to their businesses
Like Mr Taylor, Mr Roles believes the early automated machines will be retrofitted, but he says this will then open up issues with warranties and servicing. “I don’t think we are quite there yet as an industry in working out how these machines can be best put to use, or how other supply chain participants can service and maintain this level of technology.” At a recent autonomous vehicle field day, Mr Roles says a couple of pet emus standing in the paddock shut down the autonomous tractor on display. “Clearly there are still some issues that need to be ironed out before they can become easy for a farming business to adopt,” Mr Roles says.
Mr Roles has not yet purchased an autonomous machine, but believes their mainstream availability is just around the corner. But it is the data density and information gathering from these vehicles that he is truly excited about. “Most growers are already collecting lots of data, and these autonomous machines will enhance this capability,” he says. The most important way to make data a value proposition is to ensure it is accurate and generated in a standardised and spatial format. Mr Roles says this would then allow for the movement and sharing of data between growers and “The value of the data that autonomous vehicles will generate can only be realised if it is kept in a standardised and spatial format,” he says.
This data can then be used to achieve greater insight into growers’ paddocks. “For example, using the data for better soil, plant and paddock performance analysis such as the generation of spatial gross margin maps, which can then be stacked up against multiple seasonal variations and crop rotations to look at the profitability of zones within the paddock and the farm in the long term,” he says. “It will be important to ensure that autonomous vehicles and the data they generate will make a grower more dollars per hectare per 100 millimetres of rain or megalitre – or what is the point?” he says.
Other issues Adoption
particularly autonomous vehicles, will be reliant on connectivity, and some growers may be constrained by this issue, Mr Roles says. How these autonomous vehicles will be powered is another interesting question. “We might all be installing solar panels on our shed roofs in the next few years to keep these machines going without using fossil fuels,” he says. Mr Roles reiterates the entire industry supply chain needs to be involved in this digital and technological revolution to answer those types of questions. “I have been trying out new technologies for many years, and I have made many mistakes
along the way, and dipping your toes into this new type of farming and finding what works and what doesn’t will be a trialand-error process for all of us,” he says.
Ben White firstname.lastname@example.org Cameron Taylor email@example.com Adrian Roles firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published in the GroundCover™ Issue: 138 and was reproduced with the kind permission from the Grains Research and Development Corporation. https://grdc.com.au/resourcesand-publications/groundcover/ issues
Controlled Traffic Farming in the Low Rainfall Zone – Case study by Chris McDonough
Agriculture Consultant, on behalf of Mallee Sustainable Farming Name of Producer: Alistair Murdoch, Carinya Ag Enterprises Location: Kooloonong, Victoria
Chaser bin ack adjustment made to tractor
Soil Types: Deep sands, sandy loams, heavy clay flats in mainly a dune/swale landscape Average annual rainfall (mm): 330mm Growing Season rainfall (mm): 200mm 1. What is your current farming enterprise? Alistair farms 6000 ha, of which 60% is sown to wheat and barley, 25% to pulses (5% may be brown manured), 10% canola and 5% oaten hay. Alistair also trades approximately 1300 cross bred lambs or merino wethers with over-Summer grazing and feed-lotting. 2. When did you commence CTF and why? The control traffic system was first used in 2010 when Alistair
purchased a new header that then allowed him to begin lining up all his machinery on a 40 foot system with his airseeder, boomspray and spreader only requiring relatively minor adjustments. Initially not all tracks lined up perfectly, and his articulated tractor still used dual wheels, but it was a good start. Alistair chose CTF to improve the resilience of his No-till farming system, increasing water use efficiency by reducing compaction and increasing root penetration, particularly through the more challenging drier seasons. He had noticed that pulse crops in particular were showing up wheel track soil compaction, so he wanted to minimise this through CTF. 19
3. Were there any issue you encountered in the conversion to CTF? Erosion from tramlines in sand remains an ongoing issue. He counters this by moving over to different tramlines each time he sprays, which can reduce passes from 9 times down to 3, especially for pulse crops requiring Summer weed, grass, eeder cart insect and fungicide spaying. Alistair has been frustrated with having to line up all the variations in GPS tracking from different companies, or even with different models within the same brands. He has now made the necessary adjustments to overcome this.
f lining to concentrate and control weed seed passing through header.
Chaff lining to concentrate and control weed seed passing through header.
Moving to a 40 foot harvester has made it difficult to spread straw across the full machine width. Alistair bought a new chaser bin in 2016 and nudges the steering closer to the header when loading so that one wheel remains on the tramlines. He still requires dual wheels on the header to harvest over sandhills but is prepared to make this compromise as the cost of converting to track is considered too high for the potential rewards to be gained. Alistair runs the outer wheels at 10 psi less to reduce their compaction impacts. 20
Alistair Murdoch with No-Till Precision Seeder
4. Has your farming system changed since converting to CTF? CTF has allowed Alistair to do a single chaff line accurately. This concentrates the weed seed in the chaff fraction of the harvest residues into a mulch strip 2030cm wide, which results in less weed germination due to poor soil seed contact, poorer growth of surviving weeds and increased competition from the crop sown either side or through the row. He is considering modifying this to a chaff deck that will spread the chaff rows onto each tramline to provide more protection against erosion on the sand. 5. Describe your machinery set up and any changes you needed to make to convert to CTF: Alistair uses a 3:1 ratio on 3m tramlines. His airseeders, harvester and roller are 40 foot wide, and the boomspray and main spreading work on 120 feet. Some spreading is also done to a width of 80 feet. Alistair has a Primary Sales Nichols Bar for mainly cereals, and his NDF single disc seeder for sowing chickpeas, lentils and brown manure crops. He estimates that he has reduced
the machinery footprint from over 50% to about 15%. 6. Describe any changes you have seen in terms of fuel and work rates: There has been a clear advantage to spraying efficiency (estimated to be around 15%) with the boomspray having to work a lot harder when contracting off farm. 7. Describe any impacts CTF has had on any soil Chaser bin characteristics: CTF allows Alistair to get back into action after rain much quicker than before, and he finds it much safer when travelling through seep affected areas. Soil surveys with penetrometers suggest that it is hard to detail specific improvements of the system and as there is no longterm trial work, benefits are hard to quantify in the Mallee. Track adjustment made to tractor
Track adjustment made to tractor
Single disc NDF Seeder
8. Describe the impact CTF has had on your crop yields: This has been hard to accurately assess, but Alistair has noted the very large difference between the crop yields in the tramlines compared to that in the rest of the paddock.
9. Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself now that you have been in CTF for a bit, to your past self who was just starting out? Alistair said that he would have been more proactive aligning all tracks sooner to get to the 15% machinery footprint he has now at, but it all costs money. Themed Questions â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Reintroducing Livestock Why did you decide to get back into livestock? Alistair has reintroduced sheep back into his farming system
also utilises the early growth in his sown brown manure paddocks. He is also able to value add his seconds grain by using them in the feedlot.
Single disc NDF Seeder
to build more resilience into his business and manage risk, while better utilising his resources and return on capital. For the same land and machinery, and with some feedlot building expenses, he now runs 1300 cross-bred lambs and merino wethers by placing them out on the stubble paddocks and bringing them into feedlots in March/April, to then sell in June/July when there is strong demand. He
Has this lead to more grass weed issues? His main criteria is that the livestock donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t negatively impact on his cropping program. So far he has not noticed an increase in grass germination due to any hooves burying weed seed, but this may be due to his careful stacked rotation strategies which can see up to three years grass control if required. Has reintroducing livestock impacted on your CTF system? The sheep have not caused any major problems in dispersing the chaff lines to date. For Alistair, residue ground cover is vital, so all the sheep can be moved into the feedlot as soon as necessary.â&#x20AC;&#x192;
Controlled Traffic Farming in the Low Rainfall Zone – Case study by Chris McDonough on behalf of Mallee Sustainable Farming
2. When did you commence the multiple passes on the CTF and why? spraying tramlines is a major In 2017 they began by setting issue in the deep sandy soil up tram lines at harvest and types, but rotation of tramlines Agriculture Consultant, Insight also placed chaff lines. Post will reduce this issue. Extension for Agriculture 2017 harvest all operations have now been placed on these There were some adjustments Name of Producer: Jock tramlines. Jock was concerned Track header required to make up for the McNeil, SMIMAC Farming about soil compaction and discrepancies between John Location: Paruna, SA leaving valuable water behind Deere and Trimble guidance Soil Types: Deep sands, loam, in the soil in such a low lines, where the same coclay flats, stone rainfall environment. After ordinates don’t line up. He has Average annual rainfall monitoring root growth in soil had to offset some co-ordinates (mm): 280mm pits and trialling deep ripping to make consistent lines on the Growing Season rainfall Photos it was evident there were hard Extended header augers ground. (mm): 190mm Jock McNeil with SP sprayer with extra spray nozzles on wheel tramlines consolidated soil layers at depth. After commencing a deep ripping program, it was a natural progression to move to CTF in an attempt to make its benefits last for as long as possible. Jock could also see the benefits of chaff lining to help control grass weed issues. 3. Were there any issues you encountered in the conversion to CTF? While it is still early days, it has taken a few years of machinery replacement to get everything lined up. Wheel ruts becoming deeper with wind erosion from
Jock McNeil with SP sprayer
Extended header augers Adjusted back header wheels
4. Has your farming system changed since converting to CTF? All field operations now avoid all random traffic, chaser bin u-turns the only exception. Trying to stick to a simple CTF system, Jock has been removing many fences across the numerous farm properties, which makes it easier for everyone to operate on about 3 AB lines, consistently running either north/south or east/west.
1. What is your current farming enterprise? 5. Describe your machinery The McNeils have 16000ha of set up and any changes you mixed farming, with 30% barley, needed to make to convert to 20% wheat, 10% cereal rye, CTF: 30% pulses (chickpeas, lentils, McNeil’s use a 1:2:3:4 ratio lupins, and peas) or canola, for their CTF on 3m tramlines, and 10% vetch for grazing. including 12 m headers and a The farm is sown no-till and 12 m deep ripper, 24m wide generally on a cereal/cereal/ seeder, a 36m WEEDit optical SP Sprayer Modified To 3m Centres break rotation. McNeil’s deep ripper with trailing light roller to smooth out ground for seedin
McNeil’s deep ripper with trailing light roller to smooth out ground for seeding
McNeil’s deep ripper with trailing light roller to smooth out ground for seeding
sprayer for targeting Summer weeds and a 48m SP sprayer. One header is on tracks, others are on duals and the plan is to replace the others with similar tracks in time. They modified their SEEDHAWK seeder to metric row spacing and their SP sprayer was extending from Extended header augers 46.5m to 48m. Machine working widths were the highest priority to start off the CTF system. They still have dual wheels on the air-cart and headers which make their machinery foot print estimated at 22%. With little investment made on axle centres to date the plan is to reduce this foot print either through modification or machine replacement as time goes on. Adjusted back header wheels
Adjusted back header wheels
Jock aims to put splitter boots on his 375mm row spaced
tines to bring the gaps back to 300mm. He is also looking to fit chaff decks to his headers to dump chaff onto tramlines to help reduce the erosion issues on sands. 6. Describe any changes you have seen in terms of fuel and work rates: It is too early to assess this. Leaving hard tramlines is much easier than travelling over rip lines, as occurred with more random trafficking.
9. Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself now that you have been in CTF for a bit, to your past self who was just starting out? Jock believes that he has done his homework well over the last four years, and while he is still making improvements, is happy with his progress. Themed Questions Deep ripping sands
Why is deep ripping so important to your farm? A large proportion of the McNeil’s farm is made up of sandy soils that have proved to be very responsive to deep ripping, with 30-40% yield improvements, sometimes up to 100%. They have already Photos Track header Jock McNeil with SP sprayer with extra spray nozzles on wheel tramlines ripped about 5000ha, and 7. Describe any impacts are still working out how far CTF has had on any soil characteristics: The CTF program has only just commenced in full in 2018, so it is too early to assess soil impacts. 8. Describe the impact CTF has had on your crop yields: It is too early to know whether the CTF has improved crop yields.
SP sprayer with extra spray nozzles on wheel tramlines
Track header the benefits may occur down the slopes and into the loamy ground. The economic benefits could be very significant, particularly if re-compaction can be minimised over time.
and fill the gullies to improve floatation of the seeder bar and seed placement. They are experimenting with inclusion plates to help move more organic matter through the soil profile.
How is your deep ripper set up and operated? Where does this fit within Jock has a 12m wide AgrowPlow your CTF system? ripper with 52cm spacing. The Evidence from Western Extended header augers front tines have 45cm shanks, Australia suggest that CTF can in line with the deeper working improve the longevity of deep rear shanks at 60cm. Currently ripping impacts from about 3 they rip to about 40cm depth years to 10 years or more. It with a breakout pressure of is therefore an absolutely vital 4000lb. The ripper is trailed by element to ensure the McNeil’s a roller to help flatten the ridges farming enterprise remain both
Mechanical chipper added to weeds arsenal
The machine has been designed Adjusted back header wheels using a cultivator bar where tynes are raised above the ground in a standby position, ready to chip the weeds out of the ground the moment they are detected with weed-sensing technology.
by Jo Fulwood
Western Region Correspondent - GroundCover™ A new mechanical weeding machine may help change the face of fallow weed control across Australia’s broadacre grains industry. The Weed Chipper, developed by agricultural engineers and researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the University of Sydney, may be the next answer in the fight against herbicide-resistant weeds. 24
This simple, yet groundbreaking, technology will allow grain growers to control weeds in Summer and Winter fallows with greater flexibility for use in situations that restrict the use of herbicide treatments, such as wind, humidity, heat and resistance. UWA School of Engineering agricultural engineers Dr Andrew Guzzomi and Dr Carlo Peressini, together with University of Sydney director of weed research Dr Michael Walsh, have designed and
Extended header augers
built the machine in response to grower concern about the difficulties associated with summer weed control. The project received GRDC investment and several prototypes have now been trialled across the country to test its effectiveness. According to Dr Guzzomi, the weed-chipping machine has been designed to adapt seamlessly and quickly into grain-cropping systems. “WEEDit sensors installed across the bar detect a green plant, which physically activates the appropriate tyne or tynes to rapidly engage with the soil and, by using a hoeing action, they chip out the weed with minimal soil disturbance,” Dr Guzzomi says.
The bar has been designed to run at 10 kilometres per hour and, while this may be slower than a sprayer, the weed chipper can work around the clock in a wider range of environmental conditions. “In terms of the technology involved, this machine operates in a similar way as a weedseeking spray boom. Weeds are sensed, though instead of spraying them, we chip them out,” Dr Guzzomi says. According to Dr Walsh, who has been testing prototypes in field trials, the weed control success rate has so far been 100 per cent. “The real value is its ability to chip out weeds across a wide range of sizes and growth stages with minimal soil disturbance,” he says. “Using this approach takes the pressure off herbicides and removes the need to plan your herbicide treatments according to plant growth stages, weed species and resistance.”
“On a farm visit where we were walking through a fallow, Ray noticed the grower was kicking out the weeds with his boots and remarked ‘why can’t we get a tyne to do that?’” The pre-commercial rig has hydraulic break-out tynes with a three-point linkage frame system to aid manoeuvrability between farms and the heavyduty design allows it to handle a significant workload in tough conditions. “While we have seen evidence of the success of this machine on a small scale, we will also be collecting data on weed-kill efficacy and machine stress levels during this grower demonstration phase,” Dr Walsh says. Dr Walsh is hesitant to place a price point on the machine but believes it will be affordable for growers compared with current spray equipment. “It is difficult to compare the regular seasonal cost
of herbicides with a capital investment of the weed chipper,” he says. “But given this system requires little ongoing maintenance or inputs, we can see significant longterm cost savings for those growers using this system.” Dr Guzzomi also believes the weed chipper will be a perfect fit for automated technology, particularly since there is no requirement to fill the machine with any chemicals. “This mechanical solution is robust and simple, and will easily fit into an automated system,” he says. Dr Walsh and Dr Guzzomi are hoping to receive grower feedback about the machine from these expanded trials, which are the first step in commercialising the weed chipper. Manufacturers are also being approached in the effort to ultimately get this technology into the hands of growers.
Dr Guzzomi and Dr Walsh are hoping to provide growers with the opportunity to test a commercial-scale prototype in fallow this Summer. Dr Walsh says the initial concept for the machine was developed on a tour through the northern grain-growing region of NSW and Queensland in 2012. “WA growers Ray Harrington, Andrew Messina and Lance Turner and I were travelling through northern NSW and southern Queensland, where we were delivering workshops on harvest weed-seed control,” Dr Walsh says.
The six-metre-wide pre-commercial prototype mechanical weed chipper will be trialled by growers over Summer.
The Last Word...
Mallee’s Most Wanted By Glen Sutherland
Northern Mallee Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator Regular Mallee Farmer readers will know this column usually focuses on specific problem invasive weeds or pests. This time however we take a look at two new products which come hot on the heels of the story about a new manual on the control of silverleaf nightshade (“Mallee’s Most Wanted”, Mallee Farmer Edition 14). The NSW WeedWise group have released a free smartphone app for iOS only devices, as a handy companion to their WeedWise website. The smartphone app provides essential information on over 300 weeds in New South Wales; although quite a few of these are also a problem for land managers in the Mallee. The app is user friendly designed for home gardeners, farmers, public land managers and weeds professionals. Want to know what a certain plant it is? Users can:
• Search or browse weed names (common or scientific); • Use the excellent image gallery and written plant descriptions to help determine what you have; • Find out about the weeds impact and how serious it is; and • Discover the best control methods and options. Control options include information about registered herbicides, application rates and techniques, and any permits that must be complied with, all in the one spot. As well as the app a visit to the WeedWise website is also well worth a look, at https://weeds.dpi.nsw.gov. au/ The NSW WeedWise iOS application is available through the Apple App store. The other handy bit of weed management kit is the new Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Early Invader Manual. Although the publication has a focus on weeds invading public land, there are benefits for private land managers, particularly in the section on pathways for infestation and where to look for invaders. The manual details how to adopt a methodical approach to finding, identifying and then
controlling new weeds. The manual is a summary of a set of six detailed guides that form a comprehensive weed tool kit. Each guide presents information about the highest risk weeds, how and where to search for and identify them, determine the extent of the infestation and how to nut out an effective plan of attack.The early invader tools are available at: www.environment.vic.gov.au/ invasive-plants-and-animals/ earlyinvaders Acknowledgement The Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
WeedWise App screen shot
Mallee Catchment Management Authority P 03 5051 4377 F 03 5051 4379 PO Box 5017 Mildura, Victoria 3502 www.malleecma.vic.gov.au
This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.