Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Wil­liams

Even in sea­sons with an abrupt fin­ish, such as 2018, the Hard­ing fam­ily con­tinue to see re­sults from us­ing soil in­ver­sion tac­tics to ad­dress water re­pel­lence and weed con­trol is­sues on their Mingenew farm.

Tony Hard­ing and his fa­ther Cliff were this week har­vest­ing 200ha of canola and said they an­tic­i­pated achiev­ing av­er­age long-term yields on ar­eas that had been mould­board ploughed and deep ripped.

“This is de­spite the bru­tal fin­ish, with rain­fall dry­ing up in Septem­ber, and high­lights the value of im­prov­ing the soil struc­ture to hold more mois­ture and im­prove or­ganic con­tent in the root zone,” Mr Hard­ing said.

“Ar­eas of lighter coun­try, where soil mois­ture has not been re­tained as well, will prob­a­bly yield below long-term av­er­age lev­els for canola.”

The Hard­ings planted 1200ha of wheat this year, which they ex­pect will yield above the longterm av­er­age of about 2t/ha on mould­board ploughed and deep ripped ar­eas.

An­other 600ha of lupins was sown and the fam­ily runs about 2000 head of Merino ewes as they shift into more of a mixed-farm­ing sys­tem.

Their prop­erty is pre­dom­i­nantly made up of sand­plain soils with a pH of 5.5-6.5 (cal­cium chlo­ride) at the sur­face and 4.84.9 at depth.

Past tri­als have found there is po­ten­tial for mould­board plough­ing to in­crease wheat yields by 66 per cent and save al­most $70/ha on her­bi­cide costs in the first year alone.

Mr Hard­ing said they had been deep rip­ping each sea­son — just be­fore sow­ing a ce­real in the ro­ta­tion — for many years be­fore start­ing a mould­board plough­ing pro­gram in 2009.

The aims were to fix a poor clay­ing trial, over­come soil water re­pel­lence and im­prove weed con­trol.

He said they re­tained a non­ploughed strip in some of the early treated pad­docks and,

This year, we only had to treat wild radish once . . . Tony Hard­ing

al­most a decade later, these were still high­light­ing in­creased ce­real yield re­sponses of as much as 0.5-1t/ha in some years on the ploughed ar­eas.

“Yields of canola and lupins on mould­board ploughed ar­eas tend to be less re­spon­sive, but weed con­trol and crop es­tab­lish­ment are vastly im­proved when there is a good sea­son break,” he said. “This year, we only had to treat wild radish once in ploughed and ripped pad­docks, which is a sig­nif­i­cant cost and time sav­ing.”

Mr Hard­ing said in the past eight years, about 1800ha to 2000ha of land had been mould­board ploughed, some of which had now been sold, and the fam­ily would con­tinue to treat the whole prop­erty when sea­sonal con­di­tions were con­ducive.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence, mould­board plough­ing is best done in moist con­di­tions and then seed­ing car­ried out across pre­vail­ing winds,” he said.

Pic­ture: Jus­tine Rowe

Bai­ley, 9, Will, 14, and Tony Hard­ing.

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