Messinas’ plough breaks the mould

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Farmers in the northern Wheatbelt are looking to European farming practices to improve the performance of their soils.

Mullewa brothers Andrew and Rod Messina used a French-made mouldboard plough on 1400ha of their property this season, to tackle weed control, water repellence and nutrient retention.

They used a Gregoire Besson 14-furrow reversible mouldboard plough — the largest in the world — on about 15 per cent of their program.

The plough contains wedge-shape blades attached to skimmers that cut into the ground to bring better quality soil to the surface.

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Andrew said it would be used in place of his deep ripping program.

“Historically we have deep-ripped to about 300mm,” he said. “The mouldboard plough is similar, but we are turning all of the soil over rather than just ripping through the compaction layer.”

Andrew said the depth of the mouldboard plough averaged about 320mm.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) has trialled mouldboard ploughs in the region for the past four seasons, but never has a grower taken it on in this scale.

Andrew used the plough mainly on his sandy soils.

“This soil was very non-wetting last year and had very poor lupin germination,” he said. “The plough brings all the clay soil back up and puts the non-wetting soil back into the profile.”

DAFWA trials on the Messina family’s farm showed 98 per cent weed control in areas where the mouldboard plough was used.

After 200mm of summer rain, there is still only 2 per cent weed coverage in the trial plot.

“The good thing about the spader is 98 per cent control is still 98 per cent control seven months later. If you sprayed the paddock out you would still get weeds,” Andrew said.

The Messinas opened their farm this month to allow people to view the mouldboard plough in action. The demonstration attracted widespread interest from farmers, agricultural consultants and industry representatives.

DAFWA weeds research officer Peter Newman attended the demonstration to examine last year’s trial results.

Mr Newman compared a spading machine with a mouldboard plough on a two-hectare strip on the Messinas’ farm. He said 98 per cent weed control was achieved in areas where a mouldboard plough was used, compared with 40 per cent with a spader.

As well as weed control and improving water infiltration, Mr Newman said lime incorporation was another major incentive.

“The ability to incorporate lime is also another big reason to use the mouldboard plough, to correct acidity in soils,” he said.

The Messinas applied 1.2 tonnes per hectare of lime and used the mouldboard plough to work it in the soils.

Mr Newman said the machine would only need to be used once every 10 to 15 years to achieve results.

Mouldboard ploughs have also been used on farms in Mingenew and Binnu.

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