Chaff cart benefits crop and stock

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Image of grower Ted Ridgway

Ted Ridgway with the chaff cart he adapted with his son, Andrew, to fit their header on the family’s farm at Pine Hill, South Australia.

PHOTO: Deanna Lush

While herbicide resistance was not a big issue on his farm, South Australian grower Ted Ridgway could nonetheless see a looming problem with herbicide-resistant ryegrass if he did not try something new.

Ted farms 1400 hectares at Pine Hill, in SA’s upper south-east, with his wife Janette and their son Andrew. They grow wheat, barley, canola and faba beans, and run a 1000-head Merino flock and a small horticulture business growing gladioli bulbs.

Ted says herbicide-resistant ryegrass is a challenge, with older Group A chemistries no longer effective in controlling the weeds on their property. While newer herbicides, such as Sakura® in wheat and Select® in canola, are working well in controlling ryegrass, Ted realised he needed to diversify his control practices before he lost the new chemicals to resistance as well.

The family had previously tried narrow windrow burning, but their location in a high-rainfall area meant large stubble loads, and with that came issues containing windrow fires. So they opted for a new approach. Ted had had the idea of chaff carts for a while, having been to field days where the machines were talked about as a harvest weed-seed control option, but he thought this approach might be too expensive and difficult.

“Two years ago a grower nearby bought a second-hand header that came with a chaff cart he didn’t want. That got me thinking and so we bought it,” Ted says.

The newly acquired chaff cart was quite old, fed by the blower on the back of the harvester rather than the more modern conveyor system. So Ted and Andrew, who both have a passion for engineering, built their own conveyer system for the chaff cart and matched it to their Gleaner R65 harvester.

During the modification process, Ted was on the phone to growers in Western Australia who had more experience with chaff carts. There were plenty of technical issues to resolve and the persistent message from the WA growers was ‘don’t give up’.

However, with 2014 a lean year for yields in SA’s upper south-east, the Ridgways had more time to sort out teething issues.

The Ridgways used the chaff cart on all their crops except canola. Then, instead of burning the dumped chaff heaps, the Ridgways used the trash as a summer feed reserve. They ran ewes and lambs on heaps of cereal chaff and crossbred lambs on heaps of bean chaff.

Ted says one of the biggest benefits for the sheep is the cart catches all the material coming out the back of the header: “Although it’s the ryegrass seeds that we are really after, it’s surprising how much grain you catch as well.”

The chaff was dumped in piles either at each end of a paddock or in the middle.

“One grower I spoke to in WA recommended running over the heaps with a cultivator, which we did, levelling them to about 10 to 15 metres wide.

“We then brought in about 300 sheep and they foraged on the piles for four or five weeks. The sheep did really well on the chaff heaps, so much so that we only started hand feeding in early May.”

Sowing into the remnants of the grazed chaff heaps presented minimal issues in 2015, Ted says, although paddocks with heaps that were not levelled caused some trash-flow issues.

The GRDC-funded Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative recommends the use of chaff carts as part of a 10-point plan on the WeedSmart website to help manage weeds.

More information:

Ted Ridgway,
08 8753 2338,

Ted Ridgway using a chaff cart – video
Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative
Integrated Weed Management Hub


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