THE combination of soil erosion risks and cheap diesel has meant there has been a slight spike in farmers working up ground following good summer rain across much of the country.
Nearly all the nation’s cropping regions have experienced above average rainfall for 2016, and farmers are busy conserving moisture.
While the preferred method for this remains by far and away spraying, there are reports in some areas there has been an increased usage of tillage as a weed control method combined with other management benefits.
Cam Taylor, commercial services manager for Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) in Victoria, said poor crops had meant farmers had to consider tillage as a form of soil erosion control.
“There were some crops that just not have heavy enough stubbles to stop erosion.
“To combat this, we are hearing some growers have done some tillage work, creating ridges with a view to stopping erosion.
“If they have been lucky enough to get a second lot of rain I would think they would probably spray rather than cultivate a second time.”
In NSW, Terry Fishpool, from Tottenham in the state’s Central West region, said there was a still a strong tradition of cultivation in his area.
“Some farmers remain very traditional, so there is cultivation each year.”
This year, he said there were also farmers looking to renovate machinery tracks following heavy rain at harvest.
“Some of the harvest machinery made a mess of damp paddocks and people are taking the opportunity following this rain to get their tracks back in order.”
In South Australia, South Australian No-Till Farmers Association research and development manager Greg Butler said farmers in the state’s Mid North region, devastated by the November Pinery fire, were considering cultivation, many for the first time in years, to prevent large scale wind erosion.
“It is something they have to weigh up when they don’t have the retained stubble they normally would have.”
However, he warned there could be issues with weed seed banks when cultivating for the first time for some years.
“Normally, in a no-till system, the weeds are concentrated in the top portion of the soil profile, but if you cultivate, they could be placed down deeper, meaning we could have problems with staggered germinations of weeds.
“Obviously some people have made the decision they need to try something to prevent erosion and with no soil cover you can understand that, but there will be other impacts from doing this, and I think issues with weeds could be one of them.”
Cultivation has become a more tempting option economically, with a whopping 22.3 percent year on year fall in diesel prices, from 112c wholesale in January last year to 87c in January, based on whole of Australia averages.