AS skyrocketing fertilizer prices naturally raise apprehensions for the new season, Gairdner grower Gary Walter is at least reassured that a switch to section control at planting time will help minimize increases or, alternatively, to achieve significant savings.
Mr Walter said the technology had largely paid for itself in its first season in 2021 and would more than cover the investment for the coming year.
“Cost increases with granular and liquid fertilizers are nearly doubled,” Walter said.
“They’re right up there, so I’d definitely rather have it (section control) than not.”
Mr Walter previously worked with his family near Cascade before taking a 4700ha property near Gairdner and then adding another 2000ha of leased land.
He operates the business with his wife, Karina, and they have three children, Kade 19, Jasmine 16 and Jaxon 14.
Gairdner Farm was previously a large cattle operation, but has since undergone a comprehensive program of growing wheat, barley and canola.
The soils range from heavy river and granite soils to sandy gravels and Mr Walter has experienced dry and wet seasons in the area in recent years, the wet conditions and consequent weed control issues have hampered the harvest potential last season.
The cultivation program at Gairdner was completed with an existing Flexi-Coil, hydraulic tine bar and Simplicity air cart with 12,000 liter pellet and 5,000 liter liquid tanks, and Mr Walkter said that it was the end of the first season when he sat down, did some math on acres and acres seeded, and realized he needed to adjust the seeding overlap.
“At Cascade, they are large, open, 400 ha wide paddocks,” he said.
“Now we have rivers, bushes, granite and other obstacles.
“The first year we had 4,400 ha and we seeded up to 5,200 ha.
“We compared it with our acres sprayed and calculated the overlap was around 13% and thought we could reduce it to 3-4% of what the sprayer was getting, which is 72 sections.
“We put $90/ha on seed and fertilizer and by reducing the overlap from 650 to 700 ha, that was a saving of about $60,000.
“That covered the payment for the new equipment and we increased capacity with the new system.”
Mr Walter said he opted for the reliable Morris Entry Control (ICT) technology with a manufacturer’s 9555 tow cart comprising two 7800L pellet tanks and a 7000L liquid tank.
Sourced from McIntosh & Son in Albany, the rig is pulled by a Steiger 550 twin-wheel tractor.
“Morris Section Control has been around for a few years and has proven itself a bit better, without the problems,” Walter said.
“The numbers are close to what we thought.
“Where the paddocks were 10-12ha (with seeding) above the sprayer, they are now less than 1-3ha from the sprayer.
“We added the rental blocks, so it’s a bit difficult to calculate, but we would save 8-9pc.
“We were generous with the overlap – we don’t want any gaps – but we were happy with the savings and can be confident in that.
“We were very stressed about it, like with canola where you don’t know if you seeded or not, but there were no gaps.
“And we lacked experience.
“It was new to us, so we had to think about it more to maximize the savings.
“When we do our third headland, we turn off the ICT to get the overlap.”
Mr Walter said an electromagnetic survey of the farm and extensive soil testing, helping to generate paddock maps, also helped varying phosphorus application rates from the Morris 9555 air cart.
He said calibrating using an app was easy to do while standing in front of the cart.
“You don’t have to go back to the taxi,” Mr Walter said.
“It’s very accurate compared to what we’re used to.”
Mr. Walter was also impressed with the twin-pivot geometry linked to the Topcon X35 controller with the Morris air cart in tow between setups, where he recognizes the two drawbar pins at the front and rear of the trolley and correctly follows the coulter bar in the corners.
“It worked really well and we were really happy with the Topcon screen,” he said.
“Geometry makes a big difference.
“It took a while to get it to work, but it’s important for accuracy.
“It better recognizes where the bar is, allowing more precise section control.”
Mr Walter said there were no major operational issues with the Morris Air Cart, although it did take a bit of time initially and required careful attention when setting up between products, particularly when switching from canola to cereals.
He said the support from staff at McIntosh & Son and Morris’ national distributor, McIntosh Distribution, was excellent in helping to set up the system.
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