DEEP RIPPING trials in the Mallee continue to shine through as a highlight from last year's horrid growing season.
In the northern Mallee, the Heidrich family went ripping large-scale last year, after a small comparison trial in 2018, and said the results were "phenomenal".
Nathan Heidrich farms 11,000 hectares at Galga with wife Tash, parents Kevin and Raelene Heidrich, and brother-in-law Peter McConnell.
They no-till crop 7500ha of barley, wheat, lupins and oats, alongside 3500 breeding ewes and a feedlot.
In 2018, Nathan said they conducted a deep-rip strip trial using a borrowed Depth Charger, on about 4ha in total, and the yield difference was up to 1.9 tonnes/ha.
"Normally we would be harvesting 0.5t/ha on our hills, so to get over 2t/ha on sand was massive, especially in a year where we only got half our annual rainfall," he said.
In 2018, the Heidrichs recorded 163 millimetres of annual rainfall, with 80mm through the growing season.
Last year was equally dry (180mm), but with slightly more through the growing season (140mm).
"I was concerned about whether we were doing this in the right year with it being so dry," Nathan said.
"But it has definitely paid off because in tough finishes, where you have compaction, the dry stands out. Where we ripped, the outcomes have been phenomenal and boosted our overall yields."
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After seeing the 2018 harvest results, the Heidrichs bought a Paxton Plow SR7 and began ripping in March, covering 1500ha before seeding started in late April.
"We liked the Paxton Plow because it has hydraulic breakout, up to 2000 pounds, and it was available immediately," he said.
"The hydraulic breakout reduces damage if you hit a stump or stone, bit like a spring tyne, it shoots up and then falls back into place."
The Paxton Plow rips to a depth of 535mm.
Nathan said they sowed the ripped area to wheat and barley.
"We didn't see any result on the wheat ground, I think the year was just too dry, but the barleys excelled," he said.
"We did observe a significant difference between the three varieties sown though, with Commander faring the best, Scope next, while the Spartacus struggled in some areas, possibly due to the shortness of the variety - it may have got buried a bit deep.
"Because of that poor germination, we will consider going back over the ripped areas with a roller this year to break soil clumps up and slightly flatten the rips."
We got up to 1.3-2.5t/ha on our deep-ripped hills, which is really good in such a tough year.
At harvest, the deep-ripped barley averaged about 0.8t/ha better than the non-ripped counterparts.
"We got up to 1.3-2.5t/ha on our deep-ripped hills, which is really good in such a tough year," he said.
As for their other crops, Nathan said lupins went "better than expected", averaging 0.5t/ha.
"We had some pretty bad frosts so they went better than we thought," he said.
"We weren't able to cut much for hay because the crops were too short at the time. We didn't really cut much overall because of the dry August - it just didn't have the bulk.
"After September rain, we did cut oats for hay, but that wasn't large yields either."
Nathan said they used some of their own grain and hay for their feedlot, but this year they would have to buy in straw because of the reduced yields.
"Luckily, we had pretty good yields last year, so we still have stubbles," he said.
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The Heidrichs hope to deep rip another 1500ha at Galga this season.
"We hope to have a three-year break in between rips before going back over the country again," Nathan said.
He also hoped to work with Paxton Plow creator Wade Smith on a deep ripper that featured level lift, which the SR7 model didn't have.
"Once the depth is set, you have to run with that depth. We may upgrade in a few years time if they come up with a level lift," he said.
Nathan was also after better-wearing points.
"Working in such hard clay, we are only getting about 300ha out of the points," he said.
"So whether we look at putting tungsten tip on the point or look at a different kind of steel altogether."
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