Stripper fronts and disc seeding
Author: Tom Robinson (Robinson Farms) | Date: 17 Aug 2018
Take home hessages
- 100% ground cover 100% of the time, even after seeding.
- Leave stubble long and attached to the soil in a disc seeding system.
- Sharp discs, with adequate down pressure is key to cutting stubble residue.
- Full stubble retention and zero-till equates to less weed pressure.
- Full stubble retention lowers evaporation rates, saving moisture for when the crop needs it.
- Old straw is more important than new straw, but you need new straw every year to make old straw.
My father Ashley purchased our disc seeder in 2002, looking for better seed placement in a stubble retention system. There were plenty of trials and tribulations throughout the first few years as we learnt about a new piece of machinery and also a new farming system called zero-till.
After reading about disc seeders and stripper headers working well together in the United States of America, we borrowed a stripper header to use during harvest in 2009. We sowed into those stubbles (i.e. post stripper header stubble) for the first time in 2010, and after seeding we purchased a new stripper header ready for the 2010 harvest. In 2015 we moved to full controlled traffic farming (CTF) and purchased a new stripper header to match our CTF.
Figure 1. Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header.
We find that the stripper header and disc seeder combination work well together. Disc seeders can sometimes struggle with large amounts of finely cut up straw and chaff in the seed row, commonly known as ‘hair pinning’. However, the use of the stripper header takes the grains out the head of the plant, leaving all plant residues standing tall. The disc seeder passes through the long straw ‘like a comb through your hair’. We find that the disc does very little cutting of plant residues, as the disc parts the stubble when moving through the paddock.
Figure 2. Stripping fingers set up to move in an upwards motion which is the less aggressive position for Australian conditions.
We have used our stripper header on wheat, barley, canola, lentils and linseed. Other crops that a stripper header can be used on in Australian conditions are oats and field peas.
The machinery set-up for wheat, barley and oat harvesting is quite simple, whereas canola and lentils need further care. Watch for losses in fragile crops and change stripper rotor speed and/or stripper header height to maximise performance.
Narrow seeding row spacing is beneficial in reducing losses from the stripper header.
Maintenance on a stripper header is quite low. There is a single gearbox and belt drive to spin the stripping rotor and grain-gathering auger. Look for wear and tear on the stripping fingers of the stripping rotor.
Use of the stripper header has allowed us to double the productivity of our harvester. The harvester is now only separating the grain from the chaff rather than thrashing the grain from the straw. We also see a fuel saving of approximately 50% and decreased wear and tear on the harvester which saves on maintenance costs.
Other benefits of the stripper header and disc seeder combination are better water use efficiency, less loss of water from evaporation and soil health benefits.
Soil moisture probe data indicates that the presence of stripper header straw can accelerate water infiltration through soil to depth, saving that moisture for the crop’s reproductive growth stages.
Saving extra moisture has also allowed us to implement summer cropping, cover cropping and companion cropping on our farm.
Stripper header straw also keeps soil temperatures warmer in the winter, which acts like a blanket for the soil.
Long straw takes longer to break-down over time, allowing for more ground cover, slower nutrient release and reduced nutrient tie up.
100% ground cover and zero-till has allowed our farm to reduce our reliance on herbicides, even though we do not participate in other weed management e.g. burning, chaff lining, etc.
Soil organic matter is slowly increasing every year. Increased nutrient availability is allowing us to decrease our fertiliser inputs. Our soil smells like potting mix and we have earthworms doing our ‘tillage’ for us.
I have seen the stripper header and disc system work around the world via social media, study tours and farm visits. I have personally seen them work in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. This system is not new and has been implemented in the USA for nearly 30 years.
In our situation, 100% ground cover 100% of the time with zero till is improving our soils, reducing our input costs, reducing our weed pressure, improving our yields and growing diverse crops that we never thought possible.
Robinson Farms, Hoyleton S.A.
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