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Is high pressure Aqua-Till the future for no-till farming?

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article image Aqua-Till would be able to cut through thick stubbles from the previous crop; a creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from colleen_taugher's photo stream

Earlier this year, the South Australia No Till Farming Association (SANTFA) planned to trial new ultra high pressure (UHP) water equipment from America to develop a new Aqua-Till seeding system for grain growers.

The association hopes that the UHP technology can be used to create a furrow in the soil into which seeds can be placed, while slashing through weeds, hay, straw and thick stubbles that may sit on top of the soil. This technology could also be used to harvest crops. 

The vision is that the Aqua-Till seeder slices through surface material, effectively cutting a narrow furrow into the soil while concurrently depositing liquid nutrient along the seeding row. An air-gun behind the liquid coulter would then propel seeds into the furrow. This is then closed with a seed-firmer or similar device such as a closing wheel.

Seed placement control would preferably be controlled by a mechanical or electromagnetic soil-density sensor and the liquid coulter would be able to operate continuously or intermittently in synchronisation with the airgun’s seed release. Synchronising see release and the water delivery would also help to make the system more economical with regards to water and power.

Benefits of using a liquid seeder such as Aqua-Till include:

  • Better able to manage stubble and sow into heavy stubble loads
  • No-till with retained stubble has the potential to improve soil properties and increase sustainability
  • Reduced compaction, smearing and hair pinning
  • Ability to combine soil cutting liquid with mix in liquid fertilisers, however, the impact of using fertilisers and fungicides applied directly into the seed bed is not yet fully understood
  • It will remain operational during wet conditions
  • In dry conditions will minimise exposure of moist soil and subsequent loss of moisture
The water capacity required for operation has also been in question, and SANTFA have trialled liquid rates of 80 litres to 220 litres a hectare, corresponding to current carting capabilities.

Additionally, to tackle the issue of cost efficiency, SANTFA is also working with an American company to develop a distribution network of UHP products that will be available to seeder manufacturers globally.

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