Conservation Farming Principles

I found this line on the Sweet As! blogsite, by Qld Nuffield Scholar and sugarcane grower Bryan Granshaw

“it has taken us 10 years to get to the point where we can implement all four priciples of conservation farming, which are, Controlled Traffic (RTK GPS and all axle widths match row spacings), Cover Crops (Legumes), Minimum Tillage, Crop Residue retention(ground cover). It is a system that delivers costs savings, builds soil health, over time improves production, and importantly has less potential for off site environmental impacts.”

I can relate to the desire to farm by principles – RTK CTF, CC, NT or ZT, and SRR (surface residue retention).  How’s that for acronyms?  “SRR” I have never seen before, but I reckon there are enough results in a web search to make it up and warrant its use.  The principles fit together, and have been shown to be practicable in various parts of the world.  They can be separate from and be plans to be biological or organic, low or high input, livestock or without.

And I can relate to the “10 years” issue of even getting started properly when moving toward CTF – in annual cropping it took me a few months to enjoy the benefits of spraying on crop tramlines, then another year to interrow sow, and then the benefits of tramlines compound in following years.  RTK, with memory,  is the only way to go – 10cm accuracy systems allows too much drift with satellite movement.  “Minimising compaction”  has its detractors, but I have seen enough in my climate on my soils to know that machinery wheel compaction exists, reduces yield, uses more fuel etc, and have been able to make a non-header system work.  If I can do that, then no wonder a full system works well.

CC (cover crops) can be mono or poly-cultures, summer or winter, ground or aerial sown, and this blog concentrates on the use of summer mixtures of species.

NT (tyne with minimal soil throw or disc with some) and ZT (Zero Till with disc), which goes together with SRR (mulch) as opposed to partial or full stubble/residue burial.  I take the SRR side of the debate, and a large debate it is (“tillage burns more humus than it creates”  – discuss….) I even lean to standing stubble (it will fall or be harvested to fallen mulch soon enough), but will acknowledge suggestions (trial data, uncited) that humus levels build differently in different soils and climates.

The hard work comes in the planning and making decisions, basing them on the principles.  How wide do I make/purchase machinery?  Wheel spacing?  Tyne/disc spacing?  Can I spread my straw and chaff wide enough? How much residue can any and all operations handle?  Etc.

Did I mention I wasn’t going to argue about “Why cover crop?”

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About covercropper

G'day, I'm a grain grower in the NW Wimmera area of Victoria, Australia. This blog is to share my journey of exploring cover cropping here, mostly summer mixes /cocktails. How to, what, when, will it work in improving our soils, productivity and profits?
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