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An Australian Government funded project being run by some of the country’s lead conservation farming organisations and research institutions is aiming to evaluating more effective means of improving the population density of broadacre crops in Australia. Kicking off this summer, it will look at the possibility of modifying precision seeder technology for broadacre cropping.

Left: Andrew Garwood of NDF Disc Planters with a NDF planter on farm at Moree, NSW, showing the configuration of a modified machine with a precision seeding unit attached (photo: John Shepherd)

The Advanced seeding systems for enhanced control of erosion and weeds in broadacre crops project is funded by the Australian Government and is supported by CANFA, SANTFA, Rural Directions Pty Ltd, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Agriculture and Conservation Agriculture Australia (CAA).

The increased uptake of new seed technology across the country has put growing importance on ways of better managing plant density from a cost perspective. New precision seeders that have been modified for broadacre agriculture will be evaluated over the life of the project. It's expected the project will better inform growers how well these technologies compare to current seeders and what the cost-benefits are likely to be.

A number of trials and grower demonstrations from South Australia to Central Queensland will be run over the coming 12 months, looking at both summer and winter crops, and with the needs of southern and northern farming systems adjusted in the process.

Anticipated benefits of the project include improvement in weed suppression and the reduction of both wind and water erosion, resulting in healthier soils, more efficient water use and greater crop yields.

Major economic and sustainability issues continue to creep into our leading no-till farming systems, such as herbicide resistance, growing dependency on artificial fertilisers, need for strategic tillage, stubble burning and climate variability.

Solutions addressing these issues will reduce the need for a return to tillage. However, they need to be practical, affordable and able to be readily adopted. These include seed singulation metering technology, seed firming and fertiliser delivery technology and new disc planting systems including new leading coulter designs.

The success of the project will require the cooperation of planter manufacturers in testing many of the current modifications and adaptations to the broadacre system. CANFA will keep growers and other interested parties updated throughout the project with reports via this blog & on Twitter.

Project contacts:
Project manager - John Shepherd 0414 661 445 or via email
South Australia - Greg Butler 0427 424 278 or via email
Queensland & Northern NSW - David Hall 0428 491 091 or via email
Central NSW - Greg Brooke 0437 140 577 or via email

Left: A precision seeding unit from the USA attached to a machine manufactured in Australia for Australian conditions. (photo: John Shepherd)
Right: A commercial machine in Australia with precision seeding equipment fitted, having already being used in the field at Moree NSW sowing sorghum. (photo: John Shepherd)