Taking no-till to next level

22 Sep, 2005 07:00 PM
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NO-TILL farmers must make use of disc seeders and cover crops if they want to get the most out of their no-till practices.

That was the message from world-renowned no-till expert Rolf Derpsch at a WANTFA dinner at Meckering last week.

Mr Derpsch was the keynote speaker at the event, which preceded the association's spring field day.

He said no-till had reached a plateau under the tyne system and WA growers had to make changes to benefit.

"Using a disc seeder or double disc seeder is so much better because it just runs through the soil without churning it up," Mr Derpsch said.

"We have to make sure we have full stubble retention and thick cover crops or residue.

"This is because all the advantages of no-till don't come from not tilling the soil but from covering it."

Cover cropping is the planting of a summer or winter crop into the standing stubble of a previous crop.

Mr Derpsch said crop rotation was another important facet of the no-till system.

"No-till needs crop diversity and this combats monoculture disease problems, makes better use of machinery and is the best management practice for cover crops," he said.

"We also have to go for permanent no-till practices because rotational tillage won't give the benefits of the permanent tillage system."

Farmers needed to pay attention to the sustainability of the no-till system.

"The system being practised now in WA does not seem to be sustainable," Mr Derpsch said.

"Full stubble retention with disc seeders is essential.

"Then you need appropriate herbicides and alternative crops and cover crops."

Saia oats were one example of a good cover crop.

Mr Derpsch said a holistic approach was needed to move no-till to the next, sustainable level.

"High-residue no-till practices will improve water infiltration, which will increase soil organic matter, increasing soil fertility and yield of crops," he said.

"We have to make the mental shift to make no-till not just for economic gain but also for conservation of the soil."

p Rolf Derpsch has worked in no-till agriculture for more than 34 years and is highly regarded as a world leader in no-till technology. He lives in Asuncion, Paraguay.

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