UNIVERSITY of SA agricultural research engineers are aiming to help farmers get more bang for their machinery investment buck, by investigating different amelioration strategies across a range of projects.
“We want to help farmers choose the right machine, use it the right way and at the right time of year to achieve the most yield benefit,” researcher Chris Saunders said.
The researchers are involved in four different projects, which all complement each other.
The first project is in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, and has a focus on soil inversion through the use of mouldboard ploughs.
The second project is led by the CSIRO and targets mitigation strategies and amelioration machinery solutions for constrained sandy soils across the southern region.
Another project, led by Vic Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, focuses on poorly-structured clay soils. As part of this project, the UniSA engineers are leading a scoping study to identify machinery requirements for incorporating different organic materials.
The researchers are also working under the PIRSA New Horizons program, with a focus on the use of machinery to incorporate organic matter.
“All of the projects are about improving soil conditions and addressing relevant soil constraints,” Dr Saunders said.
One tool used by the researchers across these four projects is a modelling process called Discrete Element Method.
“This modelling is state-of-the-art,” UniSA researcher Jack Desbiolles said. “Very few researchers in the world are working with it.”
The DEM simulation software can help quantify the effectiveness of different machinery, under various conditions.
It can predict both tillage forces and the soil movement after the use of tillage implements.
Dr Desbiolles said the researchers were also working with industry partners and machinery manufacturers to help bring innovative designs to commercial reality.
ONE PASS SYSTEM COMES UP TRUMPS
BORDERTOWN farmer Roger Groocock has been working with University of SA agricultural engineers on research looking at soil constraints.
The researchers visited his property when he trialled spading and sowing a cover crop in one pass in November.
“I sowed a variety of fodder rape, and added some millet,” he said.
“I’ve sowed fodder rape before, but this was the first time I’ve done the sowing and spading in the one process. With the soil amelioration with the spader, it brings some of the moisture to the surface. Then using this system, the seed is dropped in front of the press wheels, giving perfect seed/soil contact for perfect germination.”
Mr Groocock said the results were impressive, as he was able to graze wether lambs in the paddock within a month with no grass seed problems.
April rains have also led to great growth in the paddock, providing plentiful feed.
Mr Groocock is planning to do some of his upcoming seeding program in the one pass with the spader.
He could see the process having a good fit in a number of areas.
“It’s ideal for situations where clay has been poorly incorporated in the past,” he said.
“To be able to mix the clay deep into the profile and also seed in the one pass, is a real opportunity.
“It also has potential in the drier areas of the state because it would minimise the time the ground is exposed to drift issues.”