Jason puts the boot into difficult soils

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South Australian grower Jason Pfitzner may have received a state innovation award for his seeding implement, but he says the in-paddock result is the real reward

Photo of man in hat lying in field

South Australian grower Jason Pfitzner at his Eudunda farm, with prototypes of his 3-D-printed seeding implement.

PHOTO: Rebecca Jennings

Snapshot

Owners: Jason and Jaime Pfitzner,
Michael and Bronwyn Pfitzner
Location: Eudunda, South Australia
Farm size: 2800 hectares
Crops: wheat, barley, canola, peas and chickpeas
Livestock: Merino ewes with
cross-bred lambs
Soil: mosaic, including heavy clay to light ashy soils, limestone, slate, shale
Soil pH: 5.5 to 9.5
Annual rainfall: 200 to 450 millimetres

South Australian grower Jason Pfitzner stands in his shed, holding a 3-D-printed prototype of a seeding implement. It is his own design, as is the disc-seeding system on the floor nearby.

The fifth-generation grower’s workshop reflects on-farm ingenuity, income diversification and a good dose of elbow grease. Case in point: last year, in just four weeks, Jason, his father and uncle churned out 1000 seeding boots for growers in SA and Western Australia.

Branded RootBoot, the innovative implement stems from Jason’s frustration at how other seeding options handle his farm’s highly variable soils, and his desire to find an alternative to deep banding fertiliser to prevent leaching and localised concentration.

“Our soils range from stony to ashy to clays, so they wreak havoc on seeding systems,” Jason says. “Our main issues have been deep open furrows, excessive soil throw, imprecise seed placement, blocked fertiliser outlets in heavier soils, premature wear and chipped tungsten in stony paddocks.”

With an overarching goal to maximise production in the face of high local land prices, Jason decided that if he could not buy the efficiency solution he needed, he would build it himself. So, he invented a seed/fertiliser delivery system that bolts onto tynes and uses a knife point to open soil and deliver paired seed rows 75 millimetres apart.

The RootBoot system places fertiliser between the paired seed rows instead of deep-banding it. He says this creates a buffer between the seed and fertiliser, increases competition against weeds and promotes early crop canopy closure for moisture retention.

“The seed outlets deliver paired seed rows onto a firm bed of soil without excessive soil movement and seed bounce, so seed is placed safely away from pre-emergent herbicides.”

Jason describes his early designs as “quite agricultural”, but after on-farm testing he has refined the RootBoot, adding features from his own seeding wish list: extra tungsten for longer wear, drop-forged bolt-on knifepoint for extra strength, extra tile inserts on the point to eliminate side wear and three quick-change designs.

The test came in 2012, when Jason planted his entire crop using 57 RootBoots on his 14.6-metre Gason seeder.

“It actually surpassed my own expectations,” Jason says, listing accurate seed placement, vigorous emergence, early canopy closure, improved weed competition and soil moisture, and better plant health as measurable results.

“At harvest, we noticed up to 30 per cent more heads even though it was a poor spring and I was anticipating high levels of screening, but these proved to be less than two per cent.”

In 2013, Jason refined the design to generate even less soil throw. He says the subsequent yields were the best achieved on the farm in the seasonal conditions experienced. The system also stood up to the stony country with no chipped tiles.

On the back of positive feedback from other growers testing the system, Jason won the Innovation Award at the 2013 South Australian Regional Awards.

Jason is partnering with an agricultural manufacturer to produce the boots commercially.

Razor sharp

With an interest in the biological benefits of disc seeding, Jason has now turned his attention to discs and in particular his ‘RootBoot Razor’ system.

This features a knife point that matches movement from the disc while being kept at a constant depth by the press wheel.

The system allows under-seed tilth, to improve root growth, as the disc cuts deeper than the seed. Soil flows over the seed outlets to eliminate seed bounce and a streamlined design reduces mud build-up.

“My end goal is to have a disc system which allows us to leave stubble on the ground, keep stones in the ground, generate correct soil throw for chemical incorporation, maintain soil moisture and keep soil cool in summer,” he says.

Jason says his enthusiasm for engineering comes from the need, as a grower, to find cost-effective solutions to cropping’s day-to-day realities.

More information:

Jason Pfitzner,
0428 734 899,
jason@rootboot.com.au,

http://rootboot.com.au

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