Home' Grower : October 2010 Contents The South Australian Grower -- October 2010
By ALISHA FOGDEN
AFTER successfully min-
imising erosion on their
Mallee soils by becoming
no-till croppers, brothers Kevin and
Geoff Bond decided to take the next
step -- to improve their soil and
become sustainable with zero-till.
The family business comprises
2700 hectares of cropping at
The brothers adopted no-till farm-
ing about 20 years ago in an
attempt to curb erosion.
"We saw what Queensland farm-
ers could do by sowing straight into
stubble on the drought countr y up
there, which led us to no-till,"
Maintaining ground cover and
sowing straight into stubble with
no-till, the brothers have all-but-
cured their erosion issues.
Now they are ready for the next
level -- zero-till, also known as low-
Kevin said they had been watching
the technology for the past few
years but were not "game enough"
to make the change from a direct-
drill seeder to a disc-opener over
the whole farm.
"It was just unfortunate -- or for-
tunate in some ways -- that our
direct-drill seeder didn't fare well
on our rocky country last year, so
we made the choice late last year to
buy into zero-till," he said.
A new $200,000 K-Hart triple-disc
seeder was delivered in May, 2009.
They chose that model because it
had been proven in SA, especially
in handling rocky country.
"The discs are supposed to handle
rocks better by pushing them in the
ground, not pulling them up annu-
ally," Kevin said.
The timing of the delivery
enabled the Bonds to trial the new
seeder on 200ha, against 200ha of
"It wasn't really a fair trial," Kevin
"There was a five-day difference
in the two sowing times and little
difference was seen throughout the
"But we were happy to experi-
ence fewer issues with the
The zero-till seeder has shown to
be faster than direct-drill, increas-
ing sowing speeds from 8-10 kilo-
metres an hour to 12-16km/h.
Kevin says this is because the
discs slice through the soil like a
knife through butter, while tyned
implements drag aggressively
through the soil, lifting it up and
disturbing the soil's structure.
The triple-disc seeding model
features a "ripple disc" at the
front, which places the fertiliser
deep, up to 10 centimetres, which
helps to control rhizoctonia.
There is some soil-throw with the
wavy disc, meaning the machine is
classed as only low-disturbance.
Only single-disc machines can be
classed ultra-low disturbance -- the
purest form of zero-till.
"If our weeds decrease then we
may consider changing to a non-
wavy disc," he said.
The seeding module is twin-disc
with presswheels. Kevin says the
twin discs allow seed to germinate
in a non-chemical zone, while the
presswheels are good for his undu-
lating country because they accu-
rately control seed depth and leave
a furrow for water har vesting.
Through a base station, and a
repeater in the tight spots, the
Bonds sow with 2cm accuracy.
The machine also has the ability
to double-shoot at seeding -- plac-
ing the fertiliser up to 5cm below
the seed, and minimising fertiliser
The Bonds also have a tank on
their seeder, which gives them the
ability to apply liquid fertiliser and
chemicals at seeding, reducing
time on the sprayer.
They decided to add fungicide
and insecticide at seeding after a
field day recently with respected
Western Australian agronomist
"Being a no-till advocate, I always
thought putting fungicides down
with the seed could kill the microflo-
ra and fauna that we are trying to
nurture," Kevin said. "So I used
foliar sprays or dressed the seed.
"But Wayne said putting a stream
in the soil appears to have no detri-
mental affect, so we decided to give
it a go."
Kevin says they will continue foliar
spraying for leaf diseases and nutri-
ents as needed, but they hope that
applying fungicides at seeding will
be more beneficial in combating
Normally, a non-selective insecti-
cide would be blanket-sprayed onto
the soil before sowing canola, which
they hope to stop as a result of insec-
ticide "down the tube".
"We know non-selective insecti-
cide is bad, so we will be injecting
insecticide into the soil at seeding in
the hope that it will do a better
job," Kevin said.
They have also decided to add
trace element molybdenum in
their zinc-copper-manganese mix
and apply it at seeding, and hope
the added cost of chemicals and
trace elements will be offset by
The Bonds have also trialed
LawrieCo's stubble digestion this
summer to minimise hairpinning
(seed on stubble, not in the soil) and
to retain valuable carbon in the soil.
"It breaks the stubble down to
become soft and brittle," Kevin said.
Geoff says the ultimate aim in
using zero-till technology is to
improve soil structure, through
fungus and good bugs breaking
down stubble and increasing
organic matter in the soil. This
will also increase the soil's water
and nutrient-holding capacity.
"If done properly, zero-till
should be able to produce 4
tonnes/ha-5t/ha with a 200mm
rainfall growing season," he said.
He says Mannum's 120mm
growing season rainfall equates to
about 2-3t/ha, double the cur-
rent 1-1.5t/ha average.
"We can only hope for better
yields with zero-till, while also
trying to be sustainable and envi-
ronmentally-friendly," Geoff said.
MANNUM brothers Kevin (pictured) and Geoff Bond employed zero-till seeding methods this year, using their new K-
Hart triple-disc seeder. The seeder features a wavy front coulter, twin disc seed module and presswheels. The
technology enables cultivation below sowing depth to help combat rhizoctonia; can double-shoot fertiliser and seed,
inject liquid fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides and seed at the same time with minimal germination issues, and the
presswheels give more accurate seed depth on undulating country, while still maintaining a furrow for water
Healthy soil leads to sustainability
SOIL health remains the key to
sustainable land management as it is
essential for effective management
decision making. The best decisions
will depend on your knowledge of your
soil type and condition, which can be
determined by regular testing, which
will help you determine fertiliser
needs. The use of the correct balance
of manufactured and natural, organic
fertilisers is frequently effective, with
the manufactured type giving a more
instant response and organic matter
reacting more slowly and over a
greater period of time.
Two of the greatest dangers to
healthy soil are erosion and salinity.
Best management practices to avoid
erosion include avoiding cultivation on
steep slopes, not disturbing natural
watercourses, managing external run-
off and controlling surface water,
reducing the number of tillage
operations or moving to a 'no till' plan
if possible, avoiding excessive soil
impaction, using cover crops and
green manure crops, and using crop
Cultivation should be kept as shallow
as possible unless there is a heavily
compacted sub soil. If that is the case,
it can be loosened up by deep ripping
when the soil has the appropriate
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on soil health.
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