Prairie technology shines in Australia

The farmer run seeder test might have taken place on the Prairies if it wasn’t for the red soil, with its sand and rocks.

Most of the big names of prairie seeder manufacturers were there: Bourgault, Morris, K-Hart, Seed Hawk, Ezeeon and Case IH’s Anderson-Concord. An Australian Tobin Bullitt, which can be found in Western Canada and the U.S. Plains, was also there.

The only non-prairie standout was a Disca-mate modified seeder, which replaces the shank on a seeder’s tool bar with a disc. In this case, it was installed on a Case IH frame.

Individual farmers from around an area called the Mallee in South Australia, two hours from Melbourne, brought their seeding rigs to compare the machines’ performance in a season long trial.

Tim and Brian Paschke hosted the event on their farm near Waikerie. The father and son are members of the local Lowbank Agricultural Bureau (LAB).

They said it was the first time a trial of this scale has been done in their region.

The event was similar to what took place in Western Canada during the early days of reduced and minimum tillage, when seeder and drill manufacturers would bring their machines to regional seeding events that farmers often organized.

The shank-type machines, known as tines in Australia, outperformed the disc machines, but this might have been because of a day-earlier application of trifluralin to control brome grass in the test field.

The disc units appeared to have pushed some of the herbicide into the seed rows, damaging the emergence of the spring wheat that was planted.

Warren May of the LAB said that factor skewed the outcome of the comparisons between the two types of seeders, but it also prompted some producers to stop applying the herbicide close to seeding or move to other products if they operate disc units.

The crop was planted a year ago in May and harvested in November. Only 77 millimetres of rain fell during the year, and the crop suffered. The presence of significant amounts of rhizoctonia in the soil also limited yields.

Pat Beaujot of Seed Hawk in Langbank, Sask., said the farmer-run process and the enthusiasm that drew more than 1,000 growers to visit the season long trial could be replicated on the Prairies and U.S. Great Plains.

“Of course, we are pleased about it. The results of good seed (and) fertilizer placement and low disturbance show off in years when there is little moisture to work with. Our system works when it’s wet. When it’s dry like that, it shows off the system’s abilities,” he said.

“There is a lot of western (Canadian) technology at work down there. (The prairie manufacturers) all have a strong presence in that market.”

The harvested results showed an advantage for the prairie shank units, with Seed Hawk and Bourgault leading the way, followed closely by the Morris Contour and the Case IH Concord-Anderson machines.

Seed Hawk won the yield competition with a yield of 24 bushels per acre. Among the other shank units, Bourgault yielded 21 bu. per acre, Morris 20 bu. and Case IH Concord-Anderson 19.

The disc units included a John Deere, which yielded 16 bu. per acre, with the Tobin Bullitt, Disca-mate and K-Hart all producing 18 bu. and the Ezeeon 15.5.

May said the machines were not new or set up by the dealers, which meant there were no true apples-to-apples comparisons. However, that too was interesting to participating farmers.

The trial was inspiring for Australian producers. Paul Birbeck of Landpower Australia said several “copycat trials are underway this year.”

He said events in the Victoria Mallee this spring paired newer machines, combined with older units in similar demonstrations, and drew more than 200 local farmers.

He said local farmers’ groups and agronomy consultants organize the events.

Beaujot said producers are interested in seeing machines perform against one another, “sometimes more than the manufacturers are.

“You don’t know how these things are going to turn out, but overall its good for the industry when farmers get a good chance to see machines perform under their own local conditions,” he said.

“There are a lot of great prairie-made machines out there, around the world. We pioneered this sector of the industry and are respected for it.”

To see a video of the project by ABC television, visit www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2013/s3687110.htm.

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