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New approaches achieving results for WA farmer

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article image Despite receiving very little rain since seeding, Colin Smeeton’s crop is doing well and most plants were at four to five leaf stage in mid-July

A Flexi-Coil precision hoe drill is helping WA grower Colin Smeeton achieve strong yields through improved soil health.

Colin believes that he can achieve strong yields without having to rely so heavily on well-timed rain by making his paddocks into water-holding sponges. Working towards improving soil health since 2006, Colin invested in a 70’ Flexi-Coil PD 5700 precision hoe drill in 2012 to optimise the soil structure.

Colin’s family has been farming on their 3600-hectare property at Trayning, 80km east of Dowerin for over 100 years. This year Colin put in 500 hectares of lupins and 300-400 hectares of barley, and planted wheat on the balance land.

Preferring precision seeding over deep digging as part of his approach to optimised soil health, he bought the PD 5700 after seeing a demo by Boekeman Machinery in Dallwallinu that impressed him with its flexibility and ability to hold the seed down.

The PD 5700 uses automatically adjustable downward frame pressure to keep the seed depth even, regardless of soil conditions or undulation of the terrain. This was important for Colin, because his property still has varying soil types changing from sandy soils to gravel country.

Once the breakout is set, the PD 5700 uses the automatic downward frame pressure to keep the seed depth consistent. Colin sets his bar at 70% of the maximum 250kg breakout force (about 180kg), with two settings on either side. The automatic adjustment simplifies accurate seeding to the extent that any operator unfamiliar with a property can still get good results.

The PD 5700 has a single shank, three-rank design for easy sowing into stubble. Tyne breakout is adjustable from 125 to 250kg, and the packing force is adjustable from 60 to 100kg dependent on the tyne breakout. A parallel link row unit ensures the opener maintains the same depth, while preserving the angle at which the double shoot opener engages the ground. 

The unit folds into a compact and narrow envelope that allows easy transport. The innovative fold-back design makes it suitable for almost any 4WD tractor. Its transport width is just 5.6 metres. The frame is folded and unfolded one side at a time to minimise negative hitch weight. 

In addition to contributing to Colin’s soil improvement plan, precision seed placement is also more cost effective. He is aware that an improved soil structure will allow him to use wider bars, and smaller horsepower tractors. Colin is currently using a 450 HP tractor with his PD 5700.

Colin also works closely with his agronomist Alan Feathers to plan and review his operation. He is trying different things such as liming to get the calcium down, and adding nutrients to get the soils right to increase crop yields. 

Even though he hasn’t seen a lot of rain after putting his seed into very wet ground this year, Colin’s plants are currently at four to five leaf stage and doing well. Down the track, he believes he’ll be able to ensure very good yields as long as he gets 200mm in a season.

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