IT doesn’t take long for memories to come flooding back when you see a John Shearer Trashworker.
The immediate memory was of one of the first hydraulically-operated chisel ploughs-cum-deep rippers which was built like the proverbial.
John Shearer preferred to refer to it as a bar with “structural integrity”.
The trigger for the memories was a three-row Trashworker being renovated for deep ripping at Anthill Farm, north east Yuna.
Farmer Perry St Quintin’s friends, retired ‘ag department’ researcher and scientist Paul Blackwell and Steve Hancock, Midwest Rewinds, are helping to add another “brick” of strength to the nine metre (30 foot), three-row model, which will be used as a two row machine with a working width of six metres (20ft).
It will carry 11 tines – five in the front that have been specially designed by Mark Dawson, Tuncoat, Geraldton, to dig to about 30 centimetres (12 inches) and six at the rear, on one metre spacings, digging to 50cm (20in).
Rollers are planned for rear levelling, especially the ridges from the one metre (3.3ft)-spaced inclusion plates on the back row of tines.
There’s a two-pronged thrust to the conversion.
Firstly, Mr St Quintin wanted to return to ripping country after a lengthy, nearly three-decade hiatus.
“We stopped in the mid-1990s when we were ripping to 300 millimetres (12in),” Mr St Quintin said.
“But we never backed off on the fertiliser and we got too much vegetative growth too quickly, leading to crops falling over.
“Lessons were learnt but we never got back to it, because by the time we went shopping for a decent ripper, poor seasons and costs had made it prohibitive for us to get back into it.
“We’ve now got an opportunity to do it on the cheap with Paul negotiating the Trashworker from Nigel Moffat at Walkaway.”
Secondly, Dr Blackwell also secured help with Sustainable Agriculture grants through the local Northern Agricultural Catchment Council (NACC) to establish deep rip trials to find out what works on Mr St Quintin’s property in terms of protecting crops better from heat stress and improving profitability on poor sand dune country.
The neighbouring Brooks and Thompson families are providing local dolomite and helping with the trials.
“So after establishing the trials we’ll start chipping away on a deep ripping program,” Mr St Quintin said.
According to Dr Blackwell, the Trashworker was the perfect “low cost” pathway to establish the NACC trials.
“I was told it was really well built,” he said.
“The RHS steel is nine millimetres thick and the truss is very strong and we are still able to use the original hydraulic cylinders.
“John Shearer was the first manufacturer to introduce hydraulic rams to tool bars and it had a unique design for the Trashworker by making the pistons on the rams hollow rather than being solid rods.
“The idea seems to have been that when the oil got hot, particularly on summer days when ripping might be done in 45 degrees, the tube would expand more easily than a solid rod and press against the oil seal to reduce the risk of oil leaks.”
Dr Blackwell said the trials aimed at maintaining “family size” farms in the Binnu-Balla and Yuna districts to maintain rural community quality.
“By increasing the resilience of the farms to hotter growing conditions for crops it can lead to improving the profitability of using low fertility dunes,” he said.
The project will use test strips to provide comparisons between heat stress and yield in the unripped, ripped and topsoil.
Field days and farm visits will be planned to help others adopt these methods.
“Complementary research is also needed to improve the viability of raising stock in hot weather,” Dr Blackwell said.
“The climate of Binnu, for example, is predicted by some modelling to become like that of Mt Magnet in 10 to 20 years.
“So adaptation to climate variability could include using shelter and shade, as well as possible fodder value of foliage, to minimise heat stress.
“Local arboretums established with a range of potential rangeland fodder species may help in wise selections.”