An in-cropping trial using high pressure water jets to cut through residue has produced strong results with developers calling for manufacturing interest.
Aqua Till, being developed by the Shape Technologies Group with support from South Australia’s No-Till Farming Association (SANTFA), uses high pressure water jets to slice through crop residue prior to disc or tyne seeding.
Recent trial work managed by SANTFA research and development manager, Greg Butler, involved sowing faba beans with a Morris RAZR disc in poor conditions through flattened wheat stubble at Auburn, South Australia.
Being able to negotiate wet, ropey wheat stubble proved the Aqua-Till cut through residue, and showed it could extend the sowing window when dew or dampness often restricted sowing due to problems like penetration and hair-pinning.
“The initial data looks okay,” Mr Butler said.
“We wanted to compare sowing in poor paddock conditions compared to good conditions because the time of sowing is a key driver in crop performance.
“If a farmer could get through planting lentils, canola and faba beans two weeks faster, even if the Aqua-Till is not used on cereals, the cereals will be going in two weeks earlier than normal and data says that two weeks can be worth one-quarter to half a tonne per hectare over recent years,” Mr Butler said.
Fitting the Aqua-Till to just the front rank of the Morris disc seeder for sowing faba beans meant the row spacing was 380 millimetres.
The trial threw up challenges that need resolving before commercialisation.
“Aqua-Till might also help to evolve the farming system,” Mr Butler said.
“Everyone with discs wants standing stubble, but what does that mean for rates of evaporation, or creating a genuine weed blanket, or for spraying effectiveness or the implementation of weed seed capture devices?
“Standing stubble is good, but agronomically it’s not as good as stubble on the ground - not for evaporation, soil coverage and temperature and weed control.”
The cost and benefit is open for exploration.
“It can deliver time of sowing benefits, but if you can put stubble on the ground, that opens up a whole lot more possibilities around soil health and weed control,” Mr Butler said.
SANTFA has seen enough in the trials - which continue near Moree in NSW in early September - to warrant a call for commercial partners.
“I’d be interested in doing a broader trial in different conditions - dry, damp, moist and saturated and then criss cross it with different water-jets,” Mr Butler said.
“We need manufacturers to make kits or to start building seeder lines to incorporate Aqua-Till and are ready to talk to OEMs now.”