Getting things right from the ground up

INCREASING farm productivity has been about getting things right from the soil up for cropping farmers, Greg & Kelly Waddell.

After Greg’s father Len sold their original family property at Drillham Queensland, the Waddells purchased “Kingside”, Langlands, where they’ve been for the last ten years.

The property, located North West of Dalby, is a 761 hectare cropping enterprise, which predominately consists of sorghum and barley production, along with some chickpeas and wheat.

Mr Waddell has been implementing a targeted approach to boosting yields on his property and has used precision ag technology to lead the way.

He was first introduced to Trimble Agriculture’s farm management solutions when he installed a FMX steering and guidance system to help maximise traffic control and moisture preservation in his paddocks.

To further increase water efficiency, Mr Waddell has used contractors equipped with Trimble’s Field Level II system, running Optisurface designs to make adjustments to his existing field drainage characteristics.
“It’s helped with field drainage and has stopped water pooling on my paddocks,” he said.

Last year, Mr Waddell started looking into ways to improve the soils on his property to boost his cropping yields and found Vantage NEA’s Soil Information Services (SiS).

Mr Waddell said it was at FarmFest last year where he first found out about Vantage NEA’s ability to conduct on property soil analysis with their SiS vehicle.

“My ears pricked when I heard about it, because I knew there was a fair bit of variation in some of the country out here and knew there wasn’t a one size fits all way to tackle it,” he said.

“Land prices have become too expensive, so I thought it was worthwhile investing money back into the property to improve what we have.”

In August that year, Mr Waddell had Vantage NEA’s SiS team complete high-resolution soil mapping on 68 hectares of his property. He then had more testing done to 130 hectares in April this year.

Results from the SiS testing determined excessive sodium levels as the biggest issue for the Waddell’s soil which created a hostile root environment for plants, inhibiting their growth.

From the results, Vantage NEA’s Precision Agronomist, Bryan Granshaw developed a variable rate application map, advising Mr Waddell on where to apply gypsum to his soil.

To determine a variable rate map, Mr Granshaw used the most relevant surface and sub surface layers from the survey which were pH (acidity), exchangeable sodium percentage, exchangeable magnesium, exchangeable calcium and chloride levels.

Applying gypsum to soils with high sodium levels is the most effective way to alleviate the issue, as the gypsum leeches the sodium out of the soil through the bottom of the profile.

Using his Trimble’s Field IQ Crop Input Control System, coupled with his RTK GNSS Base Station Mr Waddell has been able to use variable rate technology during planting and fertilising.

The variable rate technology has been key in tackling Mr Waddell’s soil variability, as it allows him to alter his seeding and fertiliser rates as he moves across the paddock.

In the future, if the gypsum continues to improve his soil, Mr Waddell said he would use the variable rate technology to spread the gypsum- resulting in significant savings.

Mr Waddell said the information the SiS work provided gave him the starting point to begin improving his soil and production.

Similarly, Mr Granshaw said based on all existing scientific knowledge of soil health, alleviating high sodium levels should provide an avenue to increase yield and farm production.

Mr Waddell had never used gypsum on his property prior to the SiS testing but said he was confident in the soil analysis and interpretation provided by Vantage NEA.

Mr Waddell said being able to gradually improve his soils had been a big help in that he’s been able to trial the technology to ensure its going to benefit his farm.

“We have about 300t of Natural Gypsum in the paddock now as a trial over the winter crop and over the next 12 months we’ll monitor the effectiveness and make a decision on future plans then,” he said.

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