Trials validate plough’s prowess

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Photo of Matt Eckert
Matt Eckert with a modified one-way plough fitted with Plozza discs.

Four-hectare trials of Plozza ploughing have been implemented at ‘Mentara Park’, north of Meningie in South Australia.

The farming enterprise run by David and Gwenda Eckert, along with their children Matt, Tim and Alysha, is home to 4000ha of cropping and Matt estimates 10 per cent of that is dogged by problems with non-wetting sands.

He says the enterprise had nothing to lose by trying the Plozza ploughing method on those problem areas.

“We were conventional ploughing but in our non-wetting sands on our cropping country we were just direct drilling and not achieving a lot,” he says.

“We had a patch of sand in the middle of a 3.5-tonne-per-hectare wheat crop doing nothing. We just thought, ‘Can we get something off of that?’”

Matt says the first thing they noticed in the trial plots was fast germination and establishment, with barley sown at a seeding rate of 80 kilograms per hectare, at an optimal depth, coming up within days, while the unploughed areas had nothing.

“We were new to it and just trialling things but we were really, really surprised by the results,” he says. “At this stage it has been working well for us. I think we have got the results there to try more and more of it.”

Cost, durability and depth of ploughing are the method’s big advantages, according to Matt, with about a $9000 investment for the plough, discs and labour. “We haven’t invested a lot of money to give it a go. That is the beauty of it,” he says.

“Spading is expensive and we have rocks so it is also risky. Clay spreading is expensive and we don’t have a huge source of clay. Delving can also be hit-and-miss.”

He says they have sown trial plots of lucerne on Plozza-ploughed ground and are keen to see the results. “It will be very interesting to see how the lucerne performs over the next few years because the root growth of the barley out of our plots was phenomenal.”

After Plozza ploughing, root growth reached anywhere from 250 to 350 millimetres – 100 to 150mm deeper than previous results.

The Eckerts’ agronomist, Matt Howell, says the yield difference in the barley trial plots was also significant.

“On the pure white sand, the yield was around 0.75 to 0.8t/ha on unploughed ground and on ploughed ground it was 1.2 to 1.4t/ha,” he says.

“On the loamier soil, the yield was about 1.8t/ha unploughed and it was 2.3 to 2.5t/ha ploughed.

“The difference was consistent over the two different soil types even though the level of non-wetting sand was different.”

Mr Howell says molarity of ethanol droplet (MED) testing – the industry standard for testing water-repellent soils – also showed the difference achieved by Plozza ploughing.

The non-wetting sands measured prior to ploughing were running at 2.8 to 3 (severe), with the post-ploughing measurements at 1.2 (moderate).

More information

Matt Eckert
0488 737 084