Simultaneous spading and seeding has become a reality for Yorke Peninsula farmers, as a result of a modified spader developed by Field Works SA contractor Aaron Jak, Bute.
Mr Jak has mounted a nose tank air seeder, complete with two one-tonne seeder boxes, to a three-metre-wide Imants spader with 300-millimetre row spacing, allowing for seeding to occur as the ground is being spaded.
Mr Jak said the Northern Sustainable Soils group had done a lot of trial work on spading, and while the benefits of mixing non-wetting soils were clear, farmers were worried about not being able to sow the land afterwards.
"People either have trouble pulling over (spaded ground), or they have trouble getting consistency in depth with their normal direct drill seeding machines," he said.
"It saves the pass for farmers who struggle to get seeding depth with their own seeders as a result of the ground being so soft after spading.
"Previously, if you didn't get emergence or you didn't get the seeding depth right, you experienced drifts, and you had to resow."
Having two seeder boxes allowed for the application of both seed and fertiliser, while the machine could also be used to incorporate fertiliser at depth.
"I can put high rates of fertiliser out in front of the spader and incorporate that to a depth of 400mm, and then the seeding is run at a normal depth," Mr Jak said.
A few years ago, he saw a photo of a similar modified spader from WA, which first inspired him to make changes to his own machine.
When (farmers) knew everything was going to be taken care of it in a single pass, they took it on board.
"I got the idea from there. The seeding boot was a guess and I'm still trying to perfect it," he said.
Mr Jak's machine was first used last year on about a dozen properties in the Bute region and in more southern areas of the YP.
"It was pretty clear that the results were going to be there, people were just nervous about trying it themselves, but when they knew everything was going to be taken care of it in a single pass they took it on board," he said.
The majority of Mr Jak's jobs covered areas between five hectares and 20ha, targeting sand hills and areas of non-wetting soils.
Mr Jak said spading and seeding together meant crops could be sown into areas that had little stubble.
"Initially with spading it's best to spade a wheat stubble in, because the wheat stubble holds the country together (before seeding), but because I'm seeding at the same time I'm able to go into a lentil stubble which doesn't have a lot of cover and sow onto it," he said.
Mr Jak said there was still the potential to further improve the machine.
"It's still a work in progress, but it's in its second year and crops came up last year, it worked well and people were happy with the results," he said.
CONSISTENT SEED DEPTH ENSURED
For the second straight year, Bute farmer Tom Price has sown part of his crop using a spader modified by Bute contractor Aaron Jak, and said the machine had been helpful for ensuring seed was not sown too deep, a problem he had previously experienced.
"With the hoe drill type of seeder we've got, the press wheels are at the back, and the majority of weight is on the press wheels, which push the seed as far as 25 centimetres down (into the ground)," he said.
Mr Price said the modified spader allowed seeding to occur at a depth of about six centimetres.
It's incredible to see what we've produced from hills that have previously been blow outs.
"When Aaron's new machine came along we were pretty keen on trying it out, and do it all in one pass and not have to run back over it," he said.
Mr Price crops about 2350 hectares made up of wheat, barley, lentils, and oats for export hay, and said the modified spader had been used to sow Scepter wheat this year, targeting sand hills and non-wetting soils.
Last year, 20 hectares were sown using the machine, with the area increasing to 35ha this season.
Mr Price said benefits of using the modified spader varied across his land, and in the best areas, yields were double or triple what he would have usually expected.
"In some areas the benefits have been limited, in others we've seen good ground cover," he said.
"It's incredible to see what we've produced from hills that have previously been blow outs."
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