Zero Tillage and Cover Cropping

Nuffield scholar, Craig Duffield speaks to us about his disc seeding system along with his move to summer cover cropping in a low rainfall region.

Craig and Nichole Duffield continuously crop 2,000 hectares around the Waikerie area. He talks to us about his practical trials using the John Deere 1890 single-disk opener.

Yeah, what we’re running is 2,000 hectares of continuous cropping. And we don’t normally have a break crop, so try to use barley as my break crop.

Trialing Different Break Crops

Last year we did sow some canola and that same gross margin was actually worked out okay but it’s still a risky crop here, having to swath, and a lot of varieties are getting better now with direct heading. So what I’ve actually done now is drop canola out of our system and concentrating on the cover cropping and just growing wheat and barley, Trit and rye.

But what we’ll do is as soon as the the header goes in to start harvesting a winter crop. We’ll have the seeder ready and we’ll start sowing our cover crop mix straight in to that stubble. Then we’ll just manage that with weeds before we sow and after we sow. Last, we planted some sunflowers, some millet just a forage millet, some cowpea, lentils, canola forage turnips.

Learning from the United States

One of things in the States they found was just by growing one species of cover crop you actually get a better result by mixing it and having a cocktail mix. Some of the turnips that we had growing, the sunflowers, and the cowpea when we are digging them up we can actually see that it is breaking open the soil.

So, with a single disk opener like the John Deere there’s no coulter in front to dig deeper or anything like that so with the use of these cover crops I think we can end up the same result we’re getting out of the knife points in a traditional no-till system. To do this I didn’t want to disturb the soil too much.

We’re traditionally running a John Deere chisel plow with a coulter on the front, agmor sowing boot and a press wheel and I still felt that on 12 inch spacing I was disturbing too much soil, so we went and purchased a John Deere 1890 single disc opener that gave the accurate seed placement for the small seeds in the cover crop into the into the soil and didn’t expose me to any wind erosion.

Comparison of Zero Till Seeding Machines

Craig was able to compare his John Deere with other seeding machines at a trial they held at Low Bank ag  bureau. The impressions were actually quite good I think limited amount of moisture on the day I think the knife points will actually get the crop germinated, bringing up moisture, where as the disc won’t. I think my John Deere actually perform very well, not traveling as fast as what some of the others can so it’ll be interesting to see if that isn’t anything to do with the germination and yield at the end.

But, it is a trial of growing winter crop so my I guess my mind’s open until the end results come in at harvest time.