Farmers at a GRDC Research Update seminar were asked by Southern Panel chairman Tom Cootes to specify the barriers to the adoption of a minimum tillage direct drilling farming system. The Research Update was held at Geranium in SA.
The main barriers were the high costs of inputs, particularly fertilisers, as growers sought higher yields, the risk of buying and applying more fertiliser in drought-prone districts, and the chance that cereal root diseases might increase with fewer cultivations.
The Research Update gave the 160-strong crowd the chance to hear from fellow farmers who have made the transition from conventional farming to minimal cultivations and stubble retention. They heard that:
- profits increase if crops are given adequate nutrition and root diseases are controlled. The minimum-tillage farmers are applying much higher rates of phosphorus and nitrogen than the district average and consider that the regular applications of trace elements such as zinc are essential in these mallee soils;
- the transition from conventional to conservation farming might take six or more years depending on how quickly nutritional and root disease problems can be overcome;
- specialised machinery such as seeders which can place fertilisers with and below the seed are useful, as are press wheels which aid seed to soil contact and hence germination; and
- grass control in the pasture year before a crop to minimise the risk of root disease build-up is the rule on the minimum-till farms.
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