- Drill for change:farmers told ploughings a load of crops
PLOUGHING is one of the oldest agricultural tricks known to man kind, and as farming forced its way west of the Great Dividing Range in the cargo cult climate theory that rain follows the plough was born.
Farmers realised long ago thet the theory was rubbish, but many have yet to accept that ploughing can be just as nonsensial.
Agricultural researchers say the iconic image of a farmer in the tractor pulling a dust-billowing plough should generally be reserved for museums.
No-tillage- or conservation-farming is the modern face of cropping .Machinery drills seed deep in to the soil without the need for it to be turned over first, and the stubble of previous crop is retained rather than burned.
It stops soil erosion and compaction, improves crop yield and air and water quality,saves farmers time and fuel and-perhaps most importantly during the recent years of drought-it ancourages moisture to trickle deep in to the soil and holds it there so crops can keep growing despite a lack of rain.
No-tillage farming has allowed intensive cropping to spread hundreds of kilometer west into country that was once deemed marginal.
Yet, most NSW farmers have baulked at no-till,pioneered in the 1970s,due to numerous factors including cost, soil type, paddock pride, ploughing pleasure and fear of being labelled a bludger.
Bob Martin, director of the Tamworth Agricultural Institute, said the luxury of satellite-guided modern tractors was not helping. They got good sound system-theyve got TV.[farmers] can watch the cricket while theyre ploughing. They can get away from their wives. Some farmers just like ploughing.
A two days conference that started in Tamworth yesterday will device a strategy todraw northern NSW farmers to no-till.
Shauna Dewhurst, education officer with the Department of Primary Industries ,said farmers focus group had identified the cost of equipment as the biggest hurdle, and there was a perception that a ploughed paddock is the sign of a better farmer. Its a work-ethnic thing.
Neal Barwic, who farms at Willow Tree on the Liverpool plains, took up no-till farming 15 years ago. This week he was harvesting a sorghum crop that he said would have been a failure without no-till because of the region s dry summer.
Mr Barwick, who said that before he became a conservation farmer, his land suffered terrible soil erosion and compaction problems. Ending ploughing quickly brought about an incredible difference.
The 65- year-old is surprised and disappointed that all farmers have not adopted no-till.
Dr Martin said the areas where there had been the least no-till uptake often had more severe environmental problems.
Because of the environmental benefits of conservation farming, he hopes that government will look at financial incentives for farmers to adopt the technology.
By Daniel Lewis Regional Reporter The Sydney Morning Herald
March 30, 2006
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