Hopes high mouldboard the answer

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Mouldboard ploughing could be the panacea for Mid West grower Michael O'Callaghan in tackling non-wetting soils, weed issues and soil acidity problems that have plagued him for three decades.

Michael is hosting a Liebe Group trial on his property, 20km south of Coorow at Marchagee, comparing spading, mouldboard ploughing and deep-ripping.

"I want to try to get an answer as to what would be the best one," he said.

"Non-wetting soils are a huge issue out here - we often can't get germination or have a flush of weeds throughout the growing season."

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Mouldboard ploughing is a European-derived technique, which involves inverting the soil to change its profile.

Trials in the northern Wheatbelt over the past few years have revealed advantages for some growers in weed control, improved crop establishment and yields.

Liebe Group executive officer Chris O'Callaghan said this was the first time Liebe had experimented with the machine.

"Non-wetting soils are a big problem around Marchagee," he said. "They've got pockets of really poor soils and they don't get wet. By mouldboard ploughing the top 10cm of the soil and bringing it up to the surface and burying that layer of non-wetting sand, we hope microbes will break it down over time."

The Liebe Group has set up mouldboard plough trials at four sites this season, including the O'Callaghans' property and farms in Wubin, Buntine and Wongan Hills.

Each trial is looking at different effects of the technique.

"The trial east of Buntine is looking at burying weed seeds, one west of Wubin is looking at burying organic matter and one at Wongan Hills is looking at incorporating lime," Chris O'Callaghan said.

"We have been watching other grower groups doing work with mouldboard ploughing and we have done some work with spading over the last two years.

"We are applying a similar principle in these trials but whereas a spader mixes the soil a mouldboard plough inverts it."

The trial on Michael's farm consisted of a one kilometre-long by 18m-wide trial site, with three plots and a control replicated several times.

Michael incorporated three tonnes per hectare of lime into the soil before he ploughed it in to tackle soil acidity.

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