Wallaroo cropper Stephen Paddick, Oorallaw Farms, has sown at a 10-degree angle off his usual east-west sowing direction, aiming to rectify inconsistent seed depth issues brought about by a change in row spacing.
Stephen - along with brother Shane and with assistance from father Brian during the busy seeding and harvest periods - crops 2000 hectares of wheat, barley, lentils, peas, oaten hay and canola.
This year, he converted his Bourgault 3310 Paralink seeder with a 15-metre bar from 300-millimetre row spacings back to 250mm this year, in an effort to improve yields.
"We did some trials before sowing, after the machine had been converted, and saw that if we sowed with the same run lines as last year, we were getting an unevenness in the seeding depth and so we had to make a decision on a new angle," Stephen said.
Stephen said he "asked the twittersphere" for farmers' opinions and experiences regarding seeding at different angles, with a few people suggesting a 15-degree angle.
"Before sowing, we went out in the paddock with our newly-converted seeder just to do some trial work with a few angles to see what worked best for us."
We also prefer the east-west direction so we can get shadowing of the crop on the weeds later on in the day, to help kill off the weeds.
"We tried a 15-degree angle, and even up to 20 degrees, but seed depth was getting uneven again when we went that high so we had to go back to 10 degrees, and we were happy with that."
The 10-degree angle is a clockwise tilt off the east-west direction.
While sowing at a perpendicular angle - north-south - was an option, Stephen said the 'general consensus and feel' was that sowing diagonally was a more widely-used option at the moment.
"We tried seeding at a 90-degree angle three or four years ago, because we had some heavy trash flow paddocks, but we had inconsistent germination, sowing at that angle," he said.
"We also prefer the east-west direction so we can get shadowing of the crop on the weeds later on in the day, to help kill off the weeds."
While the primary benefit has been achieving a consistent seeding depth, Stephen said there had been multiple advantages of seeding at the angle.
"Sowing at 10 degrees is allowing us to get through stubble quite easily, that's a huge advantage as well," he said.
"Stubble is king for retaining moisture, and the more stubble we can leave behind the better, especially in our country at Wallaroo, where our soils are quite saline."
"We're spreading some straw in our particularly salty areas, but with these tall stubbles it might warrant us to cut it for straw to be located somewhere else as well.
"We're finding that straw retains moisture, and if we can hold the moisture in the ground, and reduce evaporation on those salty areas, the soils won't be quite as saline."
Stephen had sown at a slower speed this year - seven kilometres an hour to 8km/hr, compared with 9km/hr in previous years.
"We've slowed down just to avoid soil throw, and while we're not covering the country quite as quickly, we seem to be getting much better results," he said.
HEADLANDS SLOW PROGRESS BUT NEW APPROACH REMAINS A GOOD OPTION
WHILE seeding at a 10-degree anticlockwise tilt to his usual east-west sowing direction has allowed Wallaroo cropper Stephen Paddick to fix seeding depth inconsistencies caused by new row spacings on his seeder, the change has not come without disadvantages.
"The downside is that we've ended up with a lot of headlands, so there has been a lot of overlap," Stephen said.
Stephen planned to revert back to the east-west direction next year, and then the slight tilt the following year, so that the increased headland problem would only be an issue every second year.
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"Every second year we'll sow on the same run lines," he said.
Stephen said sowing through stubble had not been a problem this year going across new lines, and said Atom-Jet openers on his seeder allowed it to easily move through heavier country.
"We've been using this seeder for about a decade, and have had the Atom-Jet points for about seven years. They're very hard wearing and have given us a really consistent sowing depth this year," he said.
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