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APA 4. Repeatability to Prevent Soil Damage - Hart Case Study
15 Apr 2009
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3. Repeatability to Prevent Soil Damage - Hart Case Study

Over the past 15 years Neil Hart has been practicing Controlled Traffic using a two meter wheelbase tractor, 16.5 metre boom spray, & a 8 metre planter-cultivator. Neil says this system has worked reasonably well. The only issue he has was after a full disturbance locating the original tram tracks. Using marker arms, human error never allowed him to relocate them exactly. Added to this, in the past he'd only needed to cultivate once every two or three years but as Neil puts it “with the invention of the new super weed fleabane, full disturbance seems to be a yearly event.”

Mr. Hart farms Minimum Tillage for a number of reasons, most notably the aforementioned weed control issues, and the variability of his soils that range from Loamy Belah country to puggy Teatree clays. Neil first implemented Zero Til farming when he moved into Controlled Trafficking, however, with the one pass plantings that included planting with Anhydrous Ammonia he found this form of Nitrogen in his soil types had contributed to a toughening of the soil (as he later found was supported by research studies). Bogging and the formation of deep tracks was also a problem in the melon hole country. He has since levelled most of the country, but despite this Neil still opts for minimum tillage as part of his cropping management.

Mr. Hart recalls an experience that illustrates the problem of compaction, quote “It wasn’t until I grew a paddock of irrigated corn that the importance of maintaining your exact wheel tracks became so evident. I used my Marshall spreader to spread Urea on a 16 metre swath then a full disturbance cultivation to incorporate and apply starter. Some weeks after emergence I started noticing depressions in my crop at regular intervals the full row length. After a few measurements I found every 16 metres, a two metre wide depression in the corn, obviously I was offline when I spread my Urea and with this fast growing crop [it] exaggerated the effect of compaction”.

To eliminate this tracking problem Neil purchased a Trimble Hydraulic RTK system with 2cm accuracy. The adoption of this technology has since opened his business up to new precision farming techniques , however, Neil admits this was not the reason for adopting the technology. That was the result of the inability to find spray lanes reliably and, therefore, preventing the subsequent compaction issues that could result, and damage the soil structure.

Thanks must go to all participants of the project.

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