Sunday, 26 January 2014

A very diverse cropping rotation

I arranged to visit John Evans who farms near Rakaia in Mid Canterbury. John had one of the most diverse cropping rotations I have seen, with between 10 and 13 different crops each year. The rotation includes corn salad, chrysanthemum, hybrid cabbage, hybrid mustard, linseed, red beet, spinach, radish, forage maize, feed and milling wheat, festulolium and brown top (grass seed). John's farm is also a test farm for Trimble, and therefore he utilises RTK guidance on his tractors and sectional control on his sprayer.
John Evans and Kye
 John has not used variable rate applications as he EM scanned one of his paddocks and did not see enough variability to justify the need. All the land is irrigated with a flat rate, but moisture sensors in each crop are used to assess the need and which crop is the most urgent. Dry years tend to lead to better crops as the right amount of water can be applied through irrigation and the soil is maintained as an aerobic medium.
When a new irrigation reservoir was built the surrounding earth banks were planted with native species as part of the "Trees for Bees" program, with a high number of vegetable seed crops grown it is important to encourage bees for pollination. A recent survey shown that only a small percentage of pollination was actually performed by bees, with the majority by other insects.
Native species planted around reservoir
A seed crop of hybrid cabbage, netted to protect it from birds, the males have been removed and the females left to be harvested. The seed is sold for $100/kg, and yields 300kg/ha to give a gross output of $30,000/ha less costs of $15,000/ha. 

Spinnach seed crop

Chrysanthemum seed crop
John's very varied rotation of crops also leads to the need to plant seeds in a variety of ways and row spacings. John has adapted a forklift side shift which he fits to the three point linkage of the tractor and is used to steer the drill independently to the tractor, using its own GPS receiver mounted on the drill.
Sideshift linkage on Drill
John also uses the sideshift linkage when inter row cultivating to increase the accuracy, and even though the tractor is using RTK guidance the cultivator moves side to side using its own RTK receiver. Sometimes he will use the drill on the front of the tractor to put down fertilizer between the rows and use the cultivator on the back to incorporate it.
Precision planter which is also used to place fertilizer

 Corn salad has to be planted in 75mm rows, but the drill interrow spacing is 150 mm, therefore the field is planted once then by using RTK guidance the original AB line is shifted by 75mm and planted again with the seed placed in between the original rows.
Drill used to plant the corn salad. High tech planting with old equipment!
Kye runs a rouging business for local seed potato growers, she used a self propelled machine drive through the potatoes and carry three people who watch 4 rows each. Weed potatoes can be pulled up and carried on the machine to the edge of the field, increasing the area that it is possible to cover in a day.

Potato rouging machine

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