GUNYIDI farmer Dale Morton has made a long-term investment into his soil health after purchasing a Terraland Bednar ripper in 2017.
When Mr Morton returned home to the family farm a few years ago he realised the soil needed a bit of renovation so he purchased the machine.
“I thought well now I have to pay for it so I called around the district to see who would be interested in using it,” Mr Morton said.
“It turns out the first year was a great success and people are interested in looking after their soils.”
The ripper should be on dry hire by the end of the week with the machine starting in the Yuna area and going as far south as Jerramungup.
“My dry hire is pretty much all booked up, I’m just waiting on guys to finalise budgets and get back from holidays,” he said.
“Then I work the contracting in between.”
The Terraland Bednar has a ripper and roller component with the studs to help leave a pattern to prevent wind erosion and also break up any soil types that come out a bit lumpy.
“It’s a bit of a fancy deep ripper in terms of the delving,” he said.
“The lesser quality top soil gets a bit of a shake-up and is incorporated with the sub soil, which is higher in Potassium and clay content.”
The machine is capable of ripping 450-500 millimetres in yellow sands and in gravel country can reach about 350-400mm.
Mr Morton said about 80 per cent of soils could use a Bednar for soil amelioration, and all other soils could use a machine out there to incorporate the nutrients.
Currently Mr Morton is trying to take as much work as he can but is trying not to spread himself too thin because of the small spreading business he started last year.
One for future investments, Mr Morton is now thinking about life after the Bednar.
“I think I would invest in a Horsch Tiger or a Vaderstad TopDown,” he said.
“It has offset discs at the front which doesn’t go as deep but it chops up more at the front and it can incorporate a bit more.
“They are similar machines but they take a fair bit of horsepower to pull them.”
Mr Morton said to pull a Bednar you would need 530 horsepower on tracks or 450hp plus on rubber tyres.
But he said the Bednar still did a terrific job in terms of yield potential and soil health.
“It lifted yields between 400-800 kilograms a hectare this year for our program,” he said.
“And I just know over the coming years with the way it mixes limesand into the profile and delves higher clay nutrients into the subsoil that those results will be sustained.
“I’ll be doing another 700ha this year on my property, spreading 3t/ha of limesand.”
Mr Morton said growers who had either hired or contracted the machine had yield increases anywhere from 400kg/ha to 1.25t/ha in cereals and 1.5t/ha in hay.
“Growers know the most costly practice is the practice of doing nothing,” he said.
“In my opinion it’s getting harder to rely on the staples that have got us to this point in agriculture.
“Especially with the social pressures we are facing and corporates buying all the available land in my area, I felt I needed to diversify so I had a crack at contracting.”
In 2018 his father, Lionel Morton, retired to 20ha at Northam as part of a succession plan.
Mr Morton now farms with his wife Hayley, their two children, Jacob and Faith, and his cousin Ron Morton.
He crops 1950ha, runs 2200 sheep and said all in all, 2018 was a good season.
“With a long autumn I made the decision to pull canola from the program and replace that area with barley which worked well as barley wasn’t too shabby,” Mr Morton said.
“Our wheat was about as expected and lupins are temperamental things.
“They just didn’t pod or maybe I just didn’t have the talent,” he said.
Since finishing harvest on Christmas Eve Mr Morton has had a week of holidays and is now back working on the machine, making sure it’s ready for contracting.
“Although I’ll remain committed to the farm, I’ve had to look at other forms of income and find a niche and contracting soil renovation could certainly be it,” he said.
“I’m just trying to make a living not a killing.
“But one thing is for sure is that the sun is always going to rise in the east and set in the west, so why not challenge yourself.”