Transitioning to Zero Till Disc Seeding

Nuffield scholar Steve Ball speaks about his transition to zero-till disc seeding.

Steve and his father in law Don crop 1500 acres each year in the fertile soils near Riverton, South Australia. They have made the progression to Zero Till using a Bertini disc seeder. Steve talks to us about this transition.

15 years of No Till Seeding

We’ve been doing 15 years of no till with press wheels and point and last year, for a few paddocks, we actually brought a new seeder in from Argentina with disc machines and so year everything that we put in with disks. Well we had a super 8 scarifier and we cut and shut that made it useful  for knife point and press wheels and that was a that for 5 years and then we decided to buy a new bar.

It was a Horwood Bagshaw scary bar, 27 foot with a 6000 litre air seeder box and we’ve had that up until the middle of last year and then sold it and then bought this new disc seeder, we realized that we needed to maintain soil cover early so the scary bars  couldn’t handle the stubbles that we were producing so we had to either slash or harrow to bash around the stubbles to get the knife points through.

Minimal Soil Disturbance With the Right Machines

I feel we were doing the right thing by keeping as much stubble as we could and now we’ve bought this disc machine after seeing them overseas in and some people in Australia use them to where you don’t have to do anything to the stubble to be able to go through it and so yeah, we’ve gone into the disc machine so we can keep all the stubble, minimal soil or zero disturbance and therefore that’s the system we’re using now.

The only operations we do for wheat stubble is harvest and get a good spread on our chaff coming out the back. On our canola stubbles where we always burn the wind rows and we do straight into the bean stubbles or legume stubbles so we haven’t had to do any different preparation. We’ve actually saved quite a bit of preparation.

We are going fast with the old, scary bar. We are used do 8 kilometers an hour as the maximum because we didn’t want too much soil throw for moving the trifluralin and pre-emergent chemicals onto the next row so we had to go slow. We only upped our speed about 3 kilometers, and also with a bit extra width we got now we are doing about another four hectares a hour in comparison to what we were doing.

Come back in a couple of years time and we’ll see how these new systems work.