A Mid North farming family recorded one of their best-ever harvests last season, aided by modest rain falling at the right time, but also in part due to new machinery used at seeding time.
David Willmott, and his parents Rob and Ann, crop more than 1000 hectares at Manoora, where they also mate about 1000 Merino ewes to White Suffolk terminal sires and usually run a couple of thousand trade lambs.
The typical crop rotation includes wheat then barley, followed by canola or faba beans and now lentils, which were added to the program this year.
The program was sown with a nine-metre Gason bar and bin for about 20 years, until last year when they upgraded to a larger Morris Quantum air-drill and air-cart, bought through Ramsey Bros Riverton.
David said they had considered most systems on the market through a "technology-focused" lens, but Morris really "stuck-out".
"Section control with the air-cart (via the Morris Input Control Technology system) was one of the key features," he said.
"Plus, it is a simple unit. There are no wheels in the centre frame of the Quantum bar, which helps to avoid blockages.
"We were a little worried about all the technology and the section control, but it's all reasonably easy to use.''
The 12m Quantum air-drill is set on 25-centimetre tyne spacings and features a double-shoot seeding boot to allow deep banding of fertiliser, although the family has yet to band fertiliser deeper in the soil profile.
David said the parallelogram row unit also accommodated paddocks with heavy crop stubbles.
"We had some thick straw paddocks where we didn't think the parallelogram and press wheels would get through, but there were no real problems," he said.
Once it rained after the dry start and with everything at a perfect depth, germination and establishment was a lot better with the new bar.- DAVID WILLMOTT
David said the interlocking frame design with the Quantum contributed to an extremely strong and sturdy bar, and large flotation tyres at the front and rear helped it maintain an excellent level, well highlighted in recent dry sowing seasons.
"The digging and seed placement with the hydraulic tynes have been 100 per cent, which is great because we have a lot of undulating ground," he said.
"Once it rained after the dry start and with everything at a perfect depth, germination and establishment was a lot better with the new bar."
Morris Auto-Pack and Auto-Lift technology on the Willmott's Quantum air-drill further assisted germinations and an easy seeding operation.
Auto-Pack ensures furrows are correctly closed and packed, reducing the risk of any available moisture from evaporating - vital in dry seeding conditions.
"You can also change the hydraulic pressure of the tynes inside the cab when you go over different soil types and through creeks, so you can get the depth perfect all the way through,'' David said.
He said with the Auto-Lift, as the machine nears the end of a seeding run, the seed switches off, the tynes lift out of the ground and the rig can turn quite sharply.
Using the Topcon X35 controller for auto-steer, the Willmotts run A/B paddock run lines and have been performing some inter-row sowing, while their machines also have been set up to allow for a 3m controlled traffic farming system if desired in the future.
Meanwhile, the Morris 9365 air-cart with ICT towed behind the Quantum had increased their capacity to a welcome 12,000 litres in two tanks, which had boosted operational efficiencies.
"We are now filling up two to three times a day instead of five to six times,'' David said.
"We also have room for a third tank, which we might look at for liquids later and maybe a small seeds box for canola.''
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Instead of a traditional auger, a conveyor loads product into the air-cart, which he said also prevented "crunching'' of the seed.
"It's all hydraulic and controlled remotely. You steer it to the ground and there is no lifting," he said.
David said the section control technology had shown its value for preventing overlap and would quickly pay for itself.
"We have a lot of triangular paddocks," he said.
"Coming to end strips, we can be overlapping by half the bar, so we are able to save 5-10pc of seed and fertiliser with the section control.
David said the product metering system on the Morris 9365 air-cart was also highly accurate.
"Once calibrated, it's great to be able to change rates in the cab," he said.
The Willmotts' decision to change seeding rigs was vindicated in year one, resulting in some record grain yields.
Despite average rainfall conditions, the rain fell at the right time, David said.
Wheat and barley notched up to 5.5 tonnes/ha, canola 3t/ha and faba beans 3.5-4t/ha. Canola normally yields about 2t/ha.
Despite dry seeding conditions this year, the Willmotts are hopeful for another promising season after good recent rainfall.
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