AN unprecedented push by WA farmers to improve soils should see higher cropping production without expanding land holdings.
According to Nufab Industries marketing operations manager Chris Bechard, a former banker, “old” mentality dictated buying more land if you wanted to increase production.
“That’s no longer holding up,” Mr Bechard said.
“With mouldboard, spading and deep ripping and the introduction of ameliorants, farmers are growing more on what they’ve got,” he said.
“And my banking friends are telling me they are impressed with what their clients are doing.”
Nufab has been at the forefront of developing the right machinery for soil amelioration with its spreaders, Hydramax deep rippers and more recently, the world’s biggest spader, the Armadillo.
The heavy duty spreaders, with bin capacities of more than 30 cubic metres, are used for a variety of applications including clay, lime and gypsum spreading, manures and compost and have won a sizeable share of the WA market over the past 20 years, including in mining.
But in recent years it has been the Nufab Hydramax deep ripper that has become the company’s flagship.
“We have had massive interest in the rippers based on trial results, owner feedback and return on investment,” Mr Bechard said.
“The latter is what’s raising the interest of bankers who are seeing clients increase profits without buying more land.
“Plus they’re renovating soil using less capital and that is probably the best pathway to sustainability.
“With deep ripping, an increasing number of our owners are adding inclusion plates to add ameliorants and mix it up with the soil at depth.
“Some guys prefer mouldboard or spading or spreading compost or any combination that suits their enterprise and is beneficial to their soil types.
“So there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and that’s how it should be in a State with so much variation in soil types and moisture conditions.”
Nufab’s Hydramax is based on the Queensland Tilco deep ripper and is manufactured under licence to Tilco.
It is designed with shallow leading tynes that can dig to 700 millimetres with rear tynes able to penetrate to a maximum 800mm.
In average working conditions, the front tynes can be adjusted to dig to 400mm to reduce draft loads.
“Most guys sit about that 500 to 600mm mark with the shallows but it always depends on soil conditions,” Mr Bechard said.
“The most popular model has a working width of six metres operating on 600mm spacings and using 10 tynes (working widths range from four to 12m).
“But if you have the shallows ripping to 400mm, we’d recommend 500mm spacings using 11 tynes for a more efficient shattering effect.
“If it’s any deeper, we’d say look at 600mm spacings.”
The heavy duty frame comprises 178mm by 178mm RHS beams which are considered optimum for tough WA conditions working dry.
“We also use an accumulator for each hydraulic circuit (shallow and deep) so you can easily adjust pressures on-the-go to match tynes to soil conditions,” Mr Bechard said.
“It’s a proven bar that has been around for about 24 years and we’ve done some tweaks to improve it for WA conditions, including widening the working range of the crumble roller.
“Once the height of the crumble roller was set, it used to have a working radius (vertical lift and drop) of 100mm but now its 400mm to cover a range of working conditions, the increased range also requires less hydraulic inputs by the operator.”
Nufab is into its fourth season with the Hydramax and Mr Bechard estimates 1000 Nufab tyne assemblies are “renovating soils in WA”.
Apart from the Hydramax, Nufab has high hopes for its Armadillo spader, which becomes commercially available next month, after extensive testing.
The Armadillo is based on the spader Badgingarra farmer David Hayes designed and is fitted with “spades” that he designed from grader blades to inhibit soil fluffing up.
With a 6.1m working width, it is designed for controlled traffic farming.
The spader comprises two heavy duty rotors with 24 ‘spades’ attached to each rotor and housed in a steel chassis incorporating a drawbar and a row to attach leading ‘ripper’ tynes.
A QSMII 11 litre 298kilowatt (400 horsepower) Cummins engine is mounted on the drawbar to increase horsepower requirements to drive the rotors – PTOs alone cannot supply the necessary power.
Company principal Peter Nunn expects the engine to run to 85 per cent capacity, of the available 298kW.
“The engine has a centrifugal clutch to drive each rotor through a planetary gearbox and chain design,” Mr Nunn said.
“If there are any overloading problems, the clutch stops and the engine is programmed to idle.
“In our trials a high horsepower front-wheel assist tractor towed the spader which is actually designed to push the tractor.”
Mr Nunn said that “technically”, the spader could be towed behind a deep ripper.
“And there’s the option for a row of leading hydraulic jump tynes that can be fitted to work at 500mm with the spader working to a depth of more than 400mm,” he said.
“The idea is to make it easier to work the spader in tougher soil types.”
“And we’ve designed it so you can work with different spacings.”
Another part of Nufab’s research and development program involves trialling a delver tine on the Hydramax,
“Basically we’re looking at making the Hydramax an all-purpose machine with options to meet different soil conditions and soil management practices,” Mr Bechard said.