SWITCHING to a new, locally designed no-till disc seeder has improved a Mid North farmer's ability to navigate marginal rainfall conditions and rocky soils, and provide much-needed relief for canola paddocks that had previously struggled to germinate evenly.
After moving to no-till in 2001 to reduce soil erosion on his Ngapala farm, Patrick Neal and his family have tried multiple seeders to improve crop performance on stony, hilly ground.
"Much of the land we farm is very rocky and quite steep, so machinery needs to be a bit tougher to be successful here" Mr Neal said.
After beginning with a combine no-till setup and then trying two different spring tine air seeders, the Neal's then shifted to a hydraulic tined conservapak bar.
But points, boots, hoses, heads and tines were constantly breaking with spring tined machines and even though the conservapak improved that greatly, it still pulled up too many rocks.
This and a desire to also return to narrow row spacing and retain more stubble meant a John Deere zero-till disc seeder was bought in 2014.
With residue managers and 190 millimetre row spacing, Mr Neal said he immediately noticed an increase in crop competition against weeds, stubble handling and potential yield.
But after several years damage caused by stones to the residue managers and disc depth control was becoming a problem.
"We were glad to be not pulling up rocks and were generally happy with the results but maintenance down time, and hair pinning due to sheep flattening stubble were issues."
But the Neals regard sheep as an integral part of their operation and were not prepared to forgo the grazing of their stubbles. They were determined to make sheep and discs work together.
Another issue was while establishing canola crops, appropriate seed placement to access moisture was difficult, and the proximity of fertiliser to the seed increased the risk of a poor establishment.
"It is a single shoot machine and we had to be careful with fertiliser rates, particularly sowing canola in marginal moisture," Mr Neal said.
So after years of searching for a machine to "tick all the boxes", Mr Neal had a pretty good solution in his own backyard and farmhand Rhys Jenke was also pleased about the new machine.
The Rootboot Razor no-till disc seeder, designed by Eudunda farmer Jason Pfitzner, on a prototype bar was first trialled in 2019 on the Neals' farm before Rootboot built them a 12-metre bar with a heavier floating hitch design for the 2020 season.
"We needed a more aggressive zero till disc with solid depth adjustment mechanism and single shoot," Mr Neal said.
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DESPITE a few initial teething issues, the introduction of a Rootboot Razor disc seeder has helped Patrick Neal combat multiple seeding issues on his farm at Ngapala.
Set on a heavy, high lift frame with wheels on the front and back providing even penetration, the Razor modules use a single disc, cutting a slot at a depth set by a rolling toolbar.
The machine is on a 220-millimetre spacing due to increased soil throw but Mr Neal believes that with greater seed spread, it still equated to reasonably narrow spacings.
A winged boot design also drops the fertiliser down the disc slot and places the seed on a small ledge beside the slot.
"The depth of the boot is controlled by the press wheel, independent of the disc depth, using a concept similar to many precision tyned machines," Mr Neal said. "Although we are moving a bit more soil than we would necessarily like, we can use a wider range of pre-emergent chemicals, higher fertiliser rates, and avoid hairpinning."
"This is then achieving a result close to that of a precision tyne, with the sizeable advantages of much increased trash flow, narrower row spacing and we can roll over reefs and not pull out rocks."
This system has also increased the sowing window of crops with small seeds such as canola because it digs deep and sows shallow to seek moisture. Mr Neal said being able to source parts locally was also a benefit.
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