WANTFA celebrates milestone


WA's no-till innovators came together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) at a gala dinner in Perth last week.

More than 140 farmers, researchers and industry representatives heard guest speakers Ray Harrington and Bill Crabtree speak about the history of no-till cropping and the formation of the largest agronomic grower group in WA.

Australian cricket legend Adam Gilchrist was a highlight of the night, entertaining guests with stories about the highs and lows of his life and career, as well as farming.

Mr Harrington, who was WANTFA's inaugural president, took guests back to the 1970s when he and his brother were inventing knife points for seeding into stubbles in a bid to fight soil erosion.

"At one point we had to make new points every day because they would wear out," Mr Harrington said.

"It would be a two-hour job every morning, to change the points, before we could go out and seed again."

Mr Harrington said swimming against the tide of other farmers 20 years ago was difficult, especially without the aid of mobile phones and the internet.

"Farmers today will never know the grief that a group of farmers and researchers went through 20 years ago trying to change a system that was so cemented in society," he said.

"But without no-tillage farming, we would not be growing the grain tonnage that we are today."

Mr Harrington said the formation of WANTFA and the adoption of no-till throughout the State would not have been possible without the help of Kevin Bligh, a Department of Agriculture and Food researcher at the time.

"My number one rule in farming is there are no rules; it's always changing and we will always need to adapt. So look to WANTFA in the future, as I charge it with the task of further evolving agriculture in WA," Mr Harrington said.

Bill Crabtree, known as 'No-Till Bill', said riding the wave of change in agriculture over the past 20 years had been an adrenalin-pumping journey.

"Without the change, we would have struggled with the droughts we have had," he said.

"There was a lot of resistance to change; many said no-till would never work.

"I'm thankful to the inventive genius of Ray Harrington. His invention, the Harrington Seed Destructor, has the potential to stop windrow burning all together.

"And the critics are now on our side or have since retired."

WANTFA executive director David Minkey said the association would continue in its mission to improve the productivity of WA's broadacre farms.

"After 20 years, we are still researching soil erosion, sheep and weeds, and now we are looking at how farmers are going to deal with all of these and increasing season variability," he said.

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