Traditional farming making a comeback
OVER the last few decades, more and more producers have turned to no-till farming.
Designed for minimum disturbance and lower operating costs, no-till is designed to directly plant seeds without agitating the surrounding soil.
Although modern producers have certainly embraced the method, some believe traditional cultivation practices still have a place in a rotational system.
One such farmer is Shane Callahan, who last month used a mouldboard plough to turn over a 35 acre paddock out of Mansfield.
Mr Callahan runs a mixed enterprise farm, producing ryegrass seed and beef cattle.
“I grew up at Barwon Downs, in south western Victoria, where mouldboards are used much more commonly,” Shane said.
“I watched my relatives and neighbours ploughing many paddocks in preparation for potatoes, peas and various other crops.”
Mouldboard ploughs are those often pictured in traditional farming images, with a ploughman walking behind a horse-drawn implement.
The objective of a mouldboard is to completely invert the soil, uprooting all weeds, trash and crop residue and burying them underneath.
“When used properly, it can be a really effective part of a rotational cropping program,” Mr Callahan said.
“The plough inverts the weeds and incorporates all the organic material back into the soil.”
Using a mouldboard is not for everyone, and is not for every soil type – with the plough struggling in stony paddocks.
Despite this, Mr Callahan said it was a cost effective way to deal with compacted soils, weed problems and an easy way to improve soil structure.
After being worked over by the mouldboard, paddocks are levelled and worked down – and, in Mr Callahan’s case - prepared for a summer forage crop.
One thing the mouldboard does not have in its favour is speed - at a rough guess, the old tractor and plough Mr Callahan uses turns over about an acre an hour.
“It’s a bit slow, but I don’t mind, I quite enjoy the challenge and it usually delivers good results,” he said.
“I only do it once every five or so years.” Sheep and goat EID workshop this Friday
TRADITIONAL: Shane Callahan uses a mouldboard plough as part of his rotational cropping program.