YOU still see the smoke before the seeding rigs are primed for action.
It comes from burning stubbles.
But ironically, very few farmers these days will tell you it’s a good practice.
And there is less smoke around, which confirms the thinking of the majority.
Managing stubbles is typically done by cutting low at harvest (beer can height), speed tillering after harvest, or employing wide row spacings when establishing crops.
But four years ago, former farmer and BP Imports director Burke Perry visited Canadian manufacturer Mandako at its Plum Coulee factory in Manitoba, Canada, with a wish list from WA and South Australian farmers.
At that stage Mr Perry was selling the company’s Twister speed tiller and while sales were good, he was constantly being asked by owners about possible modifications or changes.
“Basically owners were finding the machine worked well but what they highlighted reflected how diverse our soils are and the need for more flexibility from the machine to handle different soil conditions,” Mr Perry said.
“I went to Mandako and told the engineers what Australian farmers wanted, including making the machine really strong because farmers transport it around a lot so it had to stand up to those rigours as well as handling tough soil conditions.
“The discs had to be strong, along with the hubs and bearings.”
To Mr Perry’s surprise and delight, the Mandako engineers have delivered, after working with him for the past four years on changing a prototype they built for Australian conditions.
“We’ve been working the prototype in a range of conditions throughout the Wheatbelt and in South Australia and collecting feedback from farmers on ideas and improvements,” he said.
“The result is the Mandako Storm, a three section, two- row frame carrying twin disc hubs and a following cage roller, which effectively replaces the Twister models for the Australian market.
“Disc options includes straight, wavey, ripple or self-sharpening coulters.
“We’ll have two models here in September or October and apart from doing demos, they’ll be available for dry hire.”
According to Mr Perry, the new machine has vindicated his numerous trips to Canada to “get it right”.
“My farming experience and listening to my peers convinced me the machine was the way to go for Australian farmers,” he said.
“It is one of those times when collective thoughts of doing something a different way have borne fruit.”
Mr Perry said the Mandako Storm provided a lot of solutions for farmers, whether they were croppers or engaged in mixed farming.
But there are similar gains for both enterprises.
Just think about harvesting.
“Most guys cut low as a way to handle stubble for the following year’s crop,’’ he said.
“But it’s a slow process and it hammers your header, effectively reducing its life.
“By cutting higher, your harvest is quicker and it’s easier on the header, so you win both ways in reducing the chances of weather damage to the crop and you can keep the header for a couple more years before trading.”
But those considerations are minor as far as Mr Perry is concerned because the ability to improve your soils and have a machine available year-round for a range of uses is huge.
Disc gang angle adjustment is from 0-14 degrees independently front and back with 550 millimetre Ingersoll discs providing 318 kilograms penetrating force.
According to Mr Perry, the machine can be set at the full 14o and with the concave discs you can achieve a full tillage operation allowing you to control tough summer weeds.
It also can be set at 25-50mm depth for a light tillage through to 175-200mm depth for incorporating lime or clay, etc and is locked through a control valve to maintain depth.
“The Storm is designed with a hydraulically-operated tilting frame and independent suspension on every twin disc hub, with hubs set on five inch (125mm) spacings,” Mr Perry said.
“It weighs more than 13 tonnes, is very strongly built and can easily switch from mulching stubble to incorporating lime or clay, sowing a crop or renovating pastures, to enhance pasture production.
“I think it would the ideal machine for export hay producers who prefer the narrower spacings.
“But it also would be ideal for seedbed preparation for main crops.
“I’m sure guys will come up with more uses for it, particularly with the move away from monoculture farming.”
Mr Perry has a few hints for future owners, based on trials with the prototype.
“If you’re going into canola, handle the stubble with the Storm and make it a priority to do those paddocks first so stubble has a chance to break down before you start sowing in early or mid-April the following year,” he said.
“For seedbed preparation, you can adjust the machine for a light tickle to get a germination for knockdown and the cage roller gives you an even finish for seeding, eliminating any blocks.
“If you’re just knocking down stubbles, you have the ability to adjust the bar for ‘angle of attack’ to satisfy changing soil and stubble conditions.”
Two hydraulic rams on the drawbar also provide the ability for frame tilt so the leading row of coulters can dig deep (100-125mm) while the rear row can be set at 50mm, if, for example, an air seeding kit is employed or you are renovating tight country.
The models Mr Perry will demo and ‘dry hire’ are both 12.2m in working width and compatible for controlled traffic.