Horsch a key player in smarter farming
In Australia’s Wimmera region, farming practices vary from traditional to progressive across the region and even from neighbour to neighbour. When the crops come up, differing results are all too evident. Some farms are struggling, while others are going from strength to strength.
The Wimmera forms the south-west part of the Murray Darling basin. Soils vary from sandy to red loams and self-mulching black vertisols. The temperate climate produces winter dominating rainfall ranging from 380mm in the north to 580mm in the south.
Most of the land is arable and the majority of produce is for human consumption. Cereals can reach 6 tonnes per hectare with an average of 3.5-4 tonnes. Canola can produce up to 3.5 tonnes per hectare with an average of 1.8 – 2 tonnes, and legumes up to 3.5 tonnes per hectare with an average of 1.5 – 2 tonnes .
Jordan Farms is a family business with several properties within 30km of Murtoa. This year, April rains brought excellent weed germination and they held off sowing until May 6 in order to complete a double spray regime. They sowed barley, wheat, canola, lentils, field peas and chickpeas, and achieved one of their best ever germinations.
The Jordans had been using a zero till disc seeder at 9.144-metre (30 feet) controlled traffic widths but this year for the first time, they sowed at 18.288-metre (60 feet) widths using a customised Horsch NT Sprinter tine seed drill.
Craig Jordan said the Sprinter sowed with great depth precision very evenly across the whole bar, even on undulating ground, and also achieved very little soil disturbance, which is vital for moisture conservation.
“We would have had complications trying to keep the disc seeder working in those sticky soil conditions but we had no delays with the Horsch tine drill. It worked well in the wet and we could also work longer into the evenings.
“Sowing as late as May 6 instead of April 25 didn’t matter. We were sowing at double the width so we knew we’d get through it all in time, and we also had really good weed control, which made it easier to handle the in-crop spraying.
“The seed placement was spot on. Germination was very uniform and better than anything we’ve seen before. You could actually look across the rows and see how it all germinated at the same time.
“Our agronomist, Andrew Newell, was very impressed. He said it was the best canola germination we’d ever had, and it looked as though we’d have to stay with a tine machine,” he said.
Mr Jordan’s passion for no-till controlled traffic methods has grown from a firm foundation of observations, facts and results. He has used no-till methods since 2007 and controlled traffic since 2010, and he emphasises the importance of precision, persistence and accurate data.
“There’s still a lot of negative talk about no-till and controlled traffic but it has to be understood as a total system with many contributing factors. You can’t put bits of it into operation and expect to get great results.
“We’re still learning and improving, but with the right systems and the right machinery, it’s possible for anyone to turn things around and see yield improvements in a remarkably short period of time, and the soil health just keeps getting better,” he said.
“Australia is on the leading edge with CTF. We don’t get the rain, we don’t get the subsidies, and so we have to do whatever we can to maximise production sustainably. We keep striving and cropping, and the land just keeps getting better.”
Mr Jordan spoke with several manufacturers about custom designing his seed drill but most companies would not help with adjustments such as moving the wheels and building the side shift for inter-row sowing.
He said it took another farmer, who also happens to have a big manufacturing business, to understand the passion and the logic behind his requirements. That farmer was Michael Horsch.
“Michael was very interested in what we are trying to do, and why. I wanted an 18.288m (60 feet) seeder that would hug the tramlines of our Case IH Steiger Rowtrac tractor, and I needed the wheels of its outer wings to sit in the tramlines of adjacent rows, to minimise soil compaction.
“We share a common interest in implementing conservation farming techniques to be sustainable on all fronts: economically, environmentally and socially,” he said.
Michael Horsch visited Jordan Farms to study their no-till CTF, and the modified Sprinter NT tine drill duly arrived in good time to sow the crops.
The Sprinter has a coulter in front of the tine, which scores the ground before the tine penetrates, minimising soil disturbance. The 17,000-litre air cart is on tracks instead of wheels, and the machine has a side-shift mechanism to allow easy inter-row drilling.
When they use the side shift, the wheels are lined up so they always stay within the lines to reduce soil compaction. For legumes, the side shift is set at 19cm spacings (7.5 inches).
“When we sow lentils inter-row in standing stubble, it puts about 10cm of extra growth on them, and the straw holds them up so they dry out after rain and it’s much easier to harvest them. They are a very important crop for us and I wouldn’t sow them any other way,” Mr Jordan said.
For Craig Jordan, 90 percent of good farming is about relationships with people. Spreading the word on no-till CTF and sharing farming experiences, Mr Jordan recently visited Horsch factories and Horsch farms accompanied by his wife Sheryl and other family members.
He said the chain links between the manufacturer, Horsch; the Australian distributor, Muddy River; the local dealer, O’Connors; and the agronomist, Andrew Newell, are very satisfying examples of people working together, learning and pooling knowledge in a common cause.
The next goal for Jordan Farms is to develop paddock prescription maps which will enable zone by zone treatment of weeds, soil deficiencies and other problems. Mr Jordan said he would also like to have all the wheeled machinery eventually changed over to tracks.
“It’s about building a viable and sustainable business for future generations,” he said.
“We’re also waiting with keen anticipation for the Australian release of the Horsch PT330 self-propelled sprayer, which makes use of some very exciting technology.
“In fact, I’ve never known a more exciting time to be a farmer than right now. With the research that’s been done, and what’s grown from it, what we can do with all the technology coming through - it has never been better.”