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New farming methods help sort the wheat from the chaff

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A recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded national survey found 43 per cent of Australian grain growers are already using some form of Harvest Weed Seed Control (HWSC) – with 83 per cent planning to implement HWSC in the next five years.   Victorian farmer Mick Pole – from Lowan Ridge near Walpeup in northwestern Victoria (about 100km south of Mildura) – is one such grower using EMAR Chaff Decks.

EMAR Chaff Deck

Mr Pole is currently seeing the results of using the EMAR chaff deck to help ‘drive down’ some of the most damaging cropping weeds. Observations in the first year have now become clearer after some recent autumn rain with germinating weed seeds – allowing Mr Pole to capture some of the seeds and lay them on the three-metre Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) lines.  Seeds include annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum), wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and brome grass (Bromus diandrus and B. rigidus).

Reduce Dust for spraying

Mr Pole said using the chaff deck had also helped with dust reduction at summer spraying – with the residue laid by the chaff deck system. He said the dust suppression had definitely exceeded expectations, and weed control over the summer was now much closer to 100 per cent since the introduction of the chaff decks. “Windrow burning has been used in the past and we are hoping the chaff deck will replace it long term,” Mr Pole said.

“This is because with windrow burning, we found we were losing too much of the residue needed for pulse growing and erosion control.”
Mr Pole said he was hoping the use of the chaff deck would be beneficial on more sandy soils with the implementation of early stage CTF to reduce erosion.  While currently in the post-spraying phase of the farming cycle, Mr Pole said using the chaff deck had allowed him to better manage the paddocks by altering the timing of the spraying where necessary, and reducing the ‘self-sown’ pressures outside the wheel tracks.

“After only about six months of use, we are only now beginning to realise the full benefits as each cycle is completed,” Mr Pole said. “Although only in the early stages of CTF and the use of the chaff deck, I am really looking forward to watching and working with the result, and I can see some positive outcomes eventuating. “Of course, as with all new ventures there will be challenges, but the current feeling with the chaff deck is by preparing to take on these challenges, I firmly believe the positives will outweigh the negatives.” Mr Pole said.

Photo: By Miranda Kenny GRDC