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No-till farming and the search for sustainability in dryland agriculture

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A presentation given by Bill Crabtree to the International Institute for Environment and Development during a seminar on conservation tillage on 28 March, 2014.

Better known as no-till Bill, Crabtree is one of the most fervent promoters of no-till farming, having spent more than 25 years researching and extending these farming practices in his home country, Australia, and the world. He shared his experience on how he has contributed to convert large areas of abandoned degraded land into productive fields, and discussed the technical and institutional factors that supported this transformation.

The seminar was jointly organised by IIED's agroecology team and the Tropical Agricultural Association.

A video interview with Crabtree conducted at the same event can be seen on slide 105, or via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9zFLNNH_sY.

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Keep up the good work and help those crusty English farmers by informing them as to Australian achievements but also help us with the "RESISTANCE to Change" that is causing Northern European farmers weekly-type publications to "INFORM THE FARMERS THAT black Grass" is a threat.....when the evidence is pretty poor but resistance high 3826
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  • The work of Bill Crabtree was presented by him at the ECAF conference in Brussels in 2014.His presentation was characteristic of the Australian presentation approach and very very interesting indeed as he not only explained what had been achieved in Western Australia but also covered a wider area of OZ.
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No-till farming and the search for sustainability in dryland agriculture

  1. 1. Why 95% No-Till Adoption? Presented in UK in March 2014 Bill Crabtree: Consultant, Morawa farmer, “No-Till Bill”, 29 years no-till work, author, conservationist, Int Ag tour leader (B.Ag.Sci., M.Sci.) Twitter @NoTillBill www.no-till.com.au
  2. 2. Be encouraged to join Vic no-till, RR sends apologies
  3. 3. Our family farm in 1982
  4. 4. Least tillage improves structure most (Ag Dept - Merredin) 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 Agreggatestability(%) Zero Direct Reduced Multiple
  5. 5. Mud usually sticks to the boot after rain - not anymore after 3 years of no-till
  6. 6. Jim Halford’s 20 years of no- tilled soil 60 years of tillage 3% OM 5% OM 6% OM
  7. 7. Soil biology
  8. 8. 6 years with 85% wheat [2008-13] & 12% canola Exported 6.8 t/ha Wheat equivalents at 12% protein 198 kgN/ha 120 kg 126 kg N Budget: Applied 110 kgN/ha Removed 6.8t = 138 kgN/ha Unexplained = 28 kgN/ha Increased soil N of 100 kgN (from 50 to 150 kgN/ha) So 28 + 100 = 128 kgN/ha So 128/7 yrs = 18 kgN/ha/yr = 39 kg urea/ha/yr = $21/ha/yr at $550/t Times 2,800ha $60,060/yr So far OC unchanged at 0.6% 2011 test
  9. 9. Adoption started due to erosion • No-Till stopped erosion & softened soils • Darwin said “Earthworm is nature’s plough” • Water use efficiency improved • Farm management became efficient • Precision was more possible • Weed control was easier • It was an exciting revolution • It still is exciting – 20 years later!
  10. 10. Typical row width for wheat 25 cm Trifluralin bandInter-rowFurrow Weed seeds Original surface
  11. 11. Atrazine Metribuzin Simazine Herbicides applied IAS [Immediately After Sowing]
  12. 12. MetribuzinAtrazine Diuron + Simazine Herbicides applied IBS [Immediately Before Sowing]
  13. 13. Bill Crabtree – no-till adoption in Australia
  14. 14. Bill Crabtree – no-till adoption in Australia
  15. 15. Bill Crabtree – no-till adoption in Australia 25 cm row spacing Wet top 1 cm of soil Wet soil in furrow - away from evaporation Rain drop on dry cut-away soil Canola is seen in furrows at Meckering 12 hr after 4 mm of rain on dry topsoil. Original soil surface Furrow Furrow
  16. 16. MoistureMoisture often comes up from below with no-till slots only Wet subsoil from summer or autumn rain dry soil dry soil
  17. 17. Finishing rainfall in furrow
  18. 18. No-Till brings out the best in soils • The longer we no-till the better! – it’s like a good marriage! • A deep richness and confidence develops • Soils become softer, absorbing & more resilient • Intense rain events are captured & converted • Timing improves, controlled traffic is logical • Dry sowing becomes possible/desirable • Biological activity is enhanced • Drought and floods are mitigated
  19. 19. Sow Harvest
  20. 20. Strive for good agronomy • Excellent weed control & adequate pest control • Right nutrition – Liebergs law of the minimum • Most appropriate varietal choice • Strong disease control • A good start in life (placement/protection) • Excellent timing, assisted by the right; – staff, machinery, maintenance, preparation, scale, controlled traffic, flexibility • Ever improving soil quality
  21. 21. 2 dry-late start
  22. 22. Avoid herbicide complacency! • Must be smart with herbicides • Use robust rates & rotate • Keep weeds off balance (timing, tools, new tech) • The best herbicide is a crop – it works 24/7 • Dry sowing gives a jump start & diversity • Use good hygiene (clean seed, edges, timing) • Attack bad areas aggressively • 3 modes of action = resistance killer • EU & USA problems, while Canada is all good!
  23. 23. Main weed control tools in WA 1. chaff carts 2. windrow burning 3. canola in the rotation 4. hybrid canola vigour 5. use of Sakura and Boxer Gold 6. high rates of trifluralin 7. addition of triallate in the mixes 8. crop topping
  24. 24. Main weed control tools cont. 9. swathing 10. delayed sowing of the dirtiest paddocks 11. fallowing in the dry areas 12. weed seeker technology 13. double knock of glyp then SpraySeed 14. dry sowing 15. high seeding rates, split rows 16. Harrington Seed Destructor
  25. 25. Strong 2011 wheat crop – noticed poor areas though (acidity)
  26. 26. South American GM soya & no-tillage! – can canola compete
  27. 27. GM canola in 2011
  28. 28. Do we need GM crop protection technologies to remain competitive? Use of GM corn in USA has been associated with sustained increases in yield compared to that in non-GM Europe Tony Fischer
  29. 29. Greenpeace cofounder Dr Patrick Moore “The campaign of fear being waged against GM is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic.” @EcoSenseNow
  30. 30. “We have recently advanced our knowledge of genetics to a point where we can manipulate life in a manner never intended by nature. We must proceed with the utmost caution in the application of this new technology” Luther Burbank, noted US geneticist,
  31. 31. “We have recently advanced our knowledge of genetics to a point where we can manipulate life in a manner never intended by nature. We must proceed with the utmost caution in the application of this new technology” Luther Burbank, noted US geneticist, 1909
  32. 32. ChromosomeChromosome NucleusNucleus DNADNA GeneGene CellCell The biology behind GMOs
  33. 33. Teosinte Maize lide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of Georgialide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
  34. 34. Slide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of GeorgiaSlide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
  35. 35. Slide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of GeorgiaSlide courtesy of Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
  36. 36. Wild cabbage Kale, 500 BC Cabbage, 100 AD Kohlrabi Germany, 100 AD Cauliflower 1400's Broccoli Italy, 1500's Brussel sprouts Belgium, 1700's Slide courtesy Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia, 2005Slide courtesy Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia, 2005
  37. 37. Institute of RadiationInstitute of Radiation BreedingBreeding Ibaraki-ken, JAPANIbaraki-ken, JAPAN http://www.irb.affrc.gohttp://www.irb.affrc.go .jp/.jp/ 100m100m radiusradius 89 TBq89 TBq Co-60Co-60 source atsource at the centerthe center ShieldingShielding dike 8mdike 8m highhigh Gamma FieldGamma Field for radiationfor radiation breedingbreeding
  38. 38. Golden rice 2,000,000 people die each year from Vitamin A deficiency 500,000 kids develop blindness per year caused by Vit A deficiency Insertion of provitamin A synthesis genes into rice Golden rice will be distributed free Currently still awaiting approval for release
  39. 39. Thanks for the invite

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