Dave Gooden farms 3660ha (9,043acres) of canola, wheat and barley in Lockart, New South Wales. He uses an Australian-made 13.5m Janke drill fitted with knife points and a press wheel that applies both seed and fertiliser to drill crops into loamy clay over clay soil.
Mr Gooden started direct-drilling in 1997 because, like many, he was attracted by its potential to reduce labour and fuel costs, conserve moisture and improve soil moisture holding capacity and soil health. “It’s also become increasingly important to retain crop residue to improve the soil,” he adds.
And the benefits? “The fundamental benefit is that we have consistently improving soil health and better crop establishment, not to mention being able to better time sowing.
“Labour is used to start planting early and therefore enabling us to plant 5000ha of crop in six weeks with one 13.5m machine.”
The change hasn’t been without its challenges, he adds. “Managing crop residue is the biggest issue. We’ve overcome this by using 2cm repeatable RTK auto steer guidance and planting between the previous year’s crop residue. We plant on 300mm row spacing.”
In contrast to some sceptics, Mr Gooden hasn’t experienced any yield loss since moving to direct drilling. “In fact, yields have improved year on year, the longer we continue to do it. It has given us greater flexibility and better crop establishment.”
There are several key factors in getting no-till to work as it should, he adds. “Maintaining good weed control over summer, therefore retaining moisture and using good seeding equipment which is well set up. It’s important to be able to separate seed and fertiliser and then accurately place the seed followed by a press wheel that ensures good seed and soil contact.”