Tra­di­tional farm­ing mak­ing a come­back

Mansfield Courier - - PROPERTY GUIDE -

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.

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