Deep ripping setting new productivity benchmarks

Image of grower Brady Green

Brady Green spent the early part of hte year fitting inclusion plates to his deep ripper.

PHOTO: Brad Collis

For much of the Western Australian wheatbelt the break came early this year, with solid, widespread rain in March providing a handy follow-up to falls in January.

In addition to facilitating a mid-April sowing start to canola programs, it also allowed many growers, particularly in the northern wheatbelt, to try out the new ‘inclusion plates’ that are fitted to deep-ripping tynes to direct loose topsoil and ameliorants, such as lime, deeper into the soil profile.

But some remained spectators, with too much of the rain band just missing them. Yuna grower Brady Green was all set to try his new inclusion plates, but the 30 millimetres of rain that fell over two days in early April was not enough to soften the yellow sandplain soils.

“The tractor couldn’t pull the ripper with them on, so off they had to come,” he reports ruefully.

Growers in the northern wheatbelt have been enthusing over the yield response from inclusion plates. Their experiences and the results of GRDC-supported Department of Food and Agriculture, WA, trials were a hot topic at the GRDC Grains Research Updates at Yuna in February.

However, despite not being able to use the plates, Brady still kept to his plan to deep rip 3500 hectares this year, saying that even without the plates, deep ripping has demonstrated a significant benefit: “We did trials in 2012 and 2014 and the deep-ripped strips delivered a 400 kilogram/ha response for a cost of $35/ha,” he says.

“So pretty much everyone in our district is deep ripping and getting similar gains,” he says, although noting that it is proving less viable in more marginal areas where it could lead to too much biomass and crops ‘burned out’.

“On our country we’re going down 500mm and finally getting crop roots past the hard pan.”

For Brady, the deep ripping has been part of a sustained effort to correct severe soil acidity. A consequent return to a much healthier pH of 6 to 6.2 is already allowing him to lift his barley program this season. Barley’s high straw production levels fit with the stubble-retention practices that are the backbone of Brady and his wife Erin’s efforts to make their 8800ha enterprise more climate resilient.

Their 2016 cropping program comprises 4241ha of wheat (Calingiri, Mace and Magenta), 2800ha of lupins, 1105ha of barley and 685ha of canola.

“The more crop types we can include, the more sustainable the whole system is,” Brady says.

With the 30mm of rain in April, Brady started his canola program early, on 13 April. The wheat program started in the first week of May.

Next:

Global wheat yield quest gathers momentum

Feature:

Region West