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APA 7. Improving the Soil Resource - Schaefer Case Study
15 Apr 2009
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6. Improving Soil Structure – Schaefer Case Study

Jim & Leola Schaefer have been share farming on the Brigalow Floodplain for 14 years. Since 2001 the Schaefers have been minimum tillage farming, and for the last five years they have been practicing zero tillage in selected paddocks.

In April 2008 they ventured into a free to air guidance system with sub meter accuracy. Since then they have seen quote “the need to move to control traffic farming for all operations”, and therefore, have realised the need for greater accuracy and repeatability. In November 2008 they upgraded to a 2cm accurate RTK system. While they are limited to some extent with the Harvest contractors they hire for certain operations, like Harvesting, they maintain that the soil benefits will continue to improve with greater accuracy.

By improving the accuracy of control trafficking he expects to correct the damage that results from compaction. Examples of this repeatability factor are evident in this photo. Jim has experienced problems with the free to air guidance system due to the inability to stay to the one track, for example, while undertaking double-knock spray applications for Fleabane control.

Fleabane control has been a more prevalent issue in recent years, but he’s found the problem to be paddock specific on his property. Jim is conscious of the potential for chemical resistance and sprays with chemicals that have different modes of action - he also recognises the need for physical control. Blade ploughing for two successive years in problem paddocks has resulted in a few years break in mechanical control, coupled with his spray regime. Jim prefers the Blade Plough to the chisel plough because it lifts the stubble up and drops it back on top of the ground. It doesn’t necessarily turn the stubble back into the soil.

He maintains that compaction has the greatest impact on the health of his soils. Provided the tracks are maintained Jim isn’t concerned with the potential damage mechanically treating Fleabane may have to soil structure on his zero and minimium tillage paddocks.

Jim identified soil structure improvements as the main reason behind the move the control traffic farming & precision Ag technologies. Jim has experienced the benefits of tram tracking in his own soils. Jim stated that the biology and health of the soils have improved over time with the implementation of minimum and zero tillage - and expects greater improvement to be achieved with the addition of this new technology to his farming system.

Thanks must go to all partners, and Jim Schaefer for his participation in the Case Study series.

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