Improving the value & sustainability of Esperance port zone grain growers.

Cox family - Neridup

web cox
Improving non-wetting soil's nutrient capacity and weed burdens

Waterhatch farms

Farm size: 5000 ha (Neridup)
Enterprises: cropping and cattle (2000 head)
Rainfall: 450mm (Esperance)
Soil types: white and yellow fine sands
Crops: wheat, canola, barley

David and Sally Cox farm 5000 ha of sand plain on the coast to the east of Esperance. Canola wheat barley and trade cattle are a part of the mix. Long term average wheat yields are 2.8t/ha and 1.4t/ha canola. Soils are described as white and yellow fine sands ranging from 100mm of sand over gravel, to deep 2m sand over clay. The most productive soils are 600mm sand over clay. All soils are affected by non-wetting to some degree.

More than 20 years of no-till farming has solved erosion problems and reduced costs but failed to increase yields. A stratification of nutrients to the top 10cm has made the crops more susceptible to nutrient drought in dry conditions. David saw ploughing as a way to place the nutrient rich layer 25 to 35cm down where it tended to stay wet throughout the growing season, increasing rooting depth and plant resilience. The added bonus to the operation was that weed seeds and non-wetting soil is also buried.

A system was designed to plough and seed in one pass to reduce the drying out effect and compaction of a second pass. A 12 furrow Gregoir Besson plough is used hitched behind an air cart with a set of packers trailing the plow to finish the job. Barley and wheat are planted to limit the risk of erosion.

Eventually, David plans to use the system across 3000 ha of his 5000 ha property. The exercise is cost neutral due to using low fertiliser rates and no chemicals at seeding. Extra nitrogen mineralisation from the mouldboard ploughing has also significantly cut out fertiliser bills.

Key lessons learnt:

·         12t/Ha lime pre plowing
·         Plow at 40cm where possible
·         Nil fertiliser at sowing
·         70kg/Ha seed (100 would be better)
·         Strict controlled traffic, 12m x 3m from day 1
·         Averaging around 1.52Ha/hour, around the clock
·         Apply lime ahead of plow
·         Get a solid weed kill ahead of plow, for good inversion
·         Nil P response in first season (good background levels)
·         Don’t bring up clay
·         Plow headlands from inside out

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