More than 300 farmers came to the WANTFA Deep Ripper Demo Day in Goomalling last week, highlighting the growing burden of multiple soil constraints in WA. Several manufacturers lined up to demonstrate their deep rippers in a field side-by-side, followed by discussions with experts on the merits of each machine, deep placement of lime to alleviate sub soil acidity, compaction and the benefits of ripping and tramline farming.

The concept of deep ripping to remove compaction is not a new one in WA. However, the need to rip deeper to remove deep compaction from heavier machinery and the desire to address multiple soil constraints in one pass has led to the development of new ripper designs.

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) is evaluating the benefits of deeper ripping on crop yield and methods to extend the longevity of treatment. At the demo day DAFWA researchers Bindi Isbister and Dr Paul Blackwell, discussed the principles of deeper ripping and things to consider when ripping to achieve the best results.

Dr Blackwell also explained how topsoil slotting by adding inclusion plates behind ripper tines can further assist soil renovation. Ms Isbister said the demo day was a great forum for farmers, manufacturers and researchers to discuss deeper ripping and top soil slotting experiences from this season to tease out challenges, solutions and areas for further research and development.

WANTFA Executive Director Dr David Minkey said compaction was becoming a huge issue in many no-till systems today. “WANTFA supports the idea of a strategic tillage followed by the adoption of a tramline system – otherwise we are just re-compacting the soils over time which is not a conservation farming system,” he said.

WANTFA Chair Clint Della Bosca said it was very interesting to see the machines in action and the immediate effects of each one on the soil. “The turnout was fantastic and I think it shows the need for more research to meet the growing demand for strategic tillage options to alleviate soil constraints,” he said.

Bindi said if farmers were going to start deep ripping, they were encouraged to move into a controlled traffic farming system. ‘80% of compaction happens in the first pass, so reducing paddock traffic percentage from the average 40-60% down to 11-15% coverage is beneficial,’ she said.

‘You also need to consider beyond ripping; seed bank and wheel track management is critical.’ Bindi added that it was vital to know what other constraints you have before deep ripping, so you can target those as well.

For more photos and the full write up on the day please see the next edition of New Frontiers in Agriculture (WANTFA’s members only magazine).

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