- Inter-row sowing is strongly dependent on access to accurate and reliable auto-steer guidance systems
- Implement steer systems improve inter-row seeder tracking and avoids crabbing into old furrows
- Wider row spaces reduce crop competition with weeds but can reduce yield potential in cereals. Conversely wider rows improve pesticide contact and inter-row sowing.
- Crop rotations play an important role in inter-row sowing establishment, weed, pest and disease control.
- Some disc seeders have better trash handling capabilities compared to tyned seeders and are better suited to narrower row spaces.
Retention of large stubble loads in the high rainfall zone (HRZ) brings with it many and varied challenges.
Crop establishment, seeder blockages, herbicide efficacy, integrated weed management, disease carry over, nutrition management, pest harbours and harvest management techniques are all a focus of the GRDC-funded project ‘Maintaining profitable farming systems in retained stubble (BWD00024)’.
Trial plot seeding equipment, by design, is often unsuited to stubble retained research. SFS has therefore implemented on-farm trials using seeders and machinery specifically setup for inter-row sowing systems.
In 2014 at Yalla-Y-Poora, in the western districts near Geelong, SFS set up an on farm demonstration that compared a range of stubble management strategies. These included:
- Stubble retained, 30cm (high)
- Stubble retained, 15cm (low)
- Stubble burnt
- Stubble harvested high then incorporated
- Stubble harvested low into windrows and baled
To determine how stubble management influenced the establishment, yield and dry matter production of a canola crop sown with a tyned seeeder, as well as slug numbers.
Location: Yalla-Y-Poora, Southern Victoria HRZ
Soil type: Brown clay loam
Variety: Thumper Canola
Sown: 12 May 2014
Results and Interpretation
- Incorporated stubble caused serious seeder blockages, standing less so
- Inter-row sowing into 30cm stubble had no negative impact on establishment
- Canola sown into the burnt and 30cm retained standing stubble treatments displayed similar early vigour
- Slug control was similar regardless of product used
- Burt and incorporated strips were less affected by slugs in the untreated strips
- Burnt stubble treatments yielded slightly more than other treatments
From the demonstration work there are some clear messages.
Inter-row sowing with tyned seeders is possible into 30cm retained stubble with RTK guidance, but agronomic management may need be adjusted to suit this system. A Gason seeder used was on 250mm row spaces which is considered the minimum row space.
Slug control products used had no impact on slugs but slug damage occurred in the retained stubble and baled strips.
Early vigour did not vary significantly between burnt or retained 30cm standing stubble treatments.
Final yields for retained 30cm standing stubble were lower than the stubble harvested at 30cm and burnt. Reasons for this were unclear.
Growers should gain some confidence when adopting a retained stubble system from this demonstration. Growers are reluctant to burn stubble for a range of reasons such as time taken, resources required, annual increases in restrictions, loss of ground cover, nutrients loss, erosion risks and air pollution.
The tyne and press wheel system is considered the least suited to inter-row seeding in tall stubble on row spaces greater than 25cm. Adoption of inter-row sowing is practically achievable in the HRZ and practicing growers and advisors are improving the system continually to maintain profitability at the same level as traditional burn practices.
|Stubble harvested at full height and burnt||2.396|
|Stubble harvested at full height and then incorporated ‘top downed’ and then sown||2.162|
|Stubble harvested low and spread||2.314|
|Stubble harvested low and baled||2.331|
|Stubble harvested at full height, then direct drilled into standing stubble||2.164|
|Stubble harvested at full height and burnt||2.443|
Table 1:Yield results SFS stubble management demonstration Yalla Y Poora 2014
While stubble retention provides recognised benefits there are also many problems related to retaining stubble and inter-row seeding, especially in the HRZ.
Inter-row sowing enables machinery to avoid stubble for ease of sowing and herbicide application but managing high stubble loads of 4-5t/ha or more can be difficult. Carryover stubble from the previous year can also add to the amount of stubble to be sown through. Careful management (cutting height) of stubble post-harvest is key to effective inter-row sowing in the upcoming year.
Growers have been adjusting their systems to eliminate or minimise problems as they arise. A number of growers have been retaining stubble and inter-row sowing for many years and have experienced and overcome many of the major problems.
To help avoid blockages and poor plant establishment, accurate RTK guidance (+-2cm) and autosteer is important and implement guidance in some cases to reduce crabbing. Sowing in the same direction on the same row spacing is also essential.
Disc seeders have increased trash handling capacity that improves inter-row sowing capabilities. They are more suited to narrower row spaces which have been shown to be an advantage in crops yielding higher than 3t/ha (Scott, Martin & Reithmuller et al). Disc seeders also have traits that require unique agronomic management to maintain crop yields at profitability levels the same as traditional systems.
Mixed farming with integrated livestock and cropping can be beneficial or problematic for an inter-row sowing system. Livestock can reduce the chaff portion of stubble on the ground by increasing rates of break down. If the stubble is higher in nutrition value (e.g. frosted crops) sheep will eat it readily and reduce the total biomass. If it is not nutritious (e.g. high yielding crops) they will consume very little and their traffic will only lay stubble over and increase problems with inter-row seeding.
In discussions with leading growers and advisors from NSW, SFS have compiled a list of system based strategies for growers to reference when adopting a similar system. Thanks go to Greg & Kirrily Condon, Michael Sinclair, Steve Day and Matt Dart for their contributions.
Information on management strategies to eliminate or overcome problems associated with inter-row sowing are listed below in table 2. As in any system changes to one area will impact on others and solutions must be based on a systems approach.
References and links
Greg & Kirrily Condon, GrassRoots Agronomy
Disc seeding in Southern NSW, Experience and observations a few years down the track
Using pre-emergent herbicides in conservation farming systems
Dr Sam Kleeman
Seeding systems & pre-emergent herbicides
Scott BJ, Martin P and Reithmuller GP, 2013,
Row spacing of winter crops in broad scale agriculture
Ground cover TV, SFS seeder trial
By Paul Breust
Research and trials Manager
Southern Farming System
This research is being conducted by SFS as part of the GRDC Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble initiative (project BWD00024 ‘Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble in Victoria and Tasmania’).