Practical experience guides no-till evolution

The 20 percent of graingrowers who produce up to 80 percent of WA"s wheat crop are now said to be using no-till systems, like Wagin grower Murray Gmeiner.

However, a mounting body of practical experience has seen the concept evolve into myriad permutations as growers adjust the underlying principles to their own circumstances.

Murray and his partner Linda, for example, still maintain a pasture rotation - evident by the incongruous sight of dung beetles busy in a mix of sheep droppings and decaying stubble from which this year"s wheat crop is emerging.

“For us pasture is an important rotation and increases plant diversity in the landscape,” says Murray.

“We"re still experimenting with what rotations suit different paddocks, but generally we"re looking at keeping paddocks out of crop for two years as pasture.

“Because of the role of pasture we naturally cannot risk developing glyphosate resistance. The key to a healthy system and weed control seems to be plant diversity, which is why we would like to see more research into submissive companion crops, such as a good ground cover growing underneath the crop.”

Murray and Linda farm 1400 hectares in a 450 millimetre rainfall zone. Some 600ha is devoted to crops - wheat, barley, oats, lupins and canola - and the balance is used by their 7000 merinos.

Murray freely admits he has made plenty of mistakes since changing his farming system nine years ago, when he first stopped burning stubble, but he describes them as “good mistakes”.

"They have been about learning, about pushing the envelope,” he says. “This is what farming is now all about.”

- Brad Collis

Region North, South, West