Anderson family adopts minimum till
Anderson family adopts minimum till
Flooding prompts re-think of cultivation country management
Despite more than 50 years farming experience, the last few years have been the toughest in terms of erosion control for Eion and Anne Anderson.
The Andersons own three properties just east of Middlemount in central Queensland near the Isaac River, one of five major tributaries of the Fitzroy River which flows into the Great Barrier Reef.
Flooding has devastated landscapes across the Fitzroy Basin region over several extraordinary wet seasons, with significant losses for farmers and flow-on affects for local water quality.
“Due to some extreme rain events, the last four years have been the most difficult to control erosion. Consequently, we have been spending large amounts of money restoring some of our cultivation country,” Eion Anderson said.
The Euroka partnership is a family affair, with Eion and Anne joined by their sons Colin and Mark, and their wives, to manage three properties covering more than 13,000 hectares.
The enterprise is primarily grazing, but 2,200 ha of land is used for dry land farming, mostly sorghum.
Grains BMP offers direction
With the intention of boosting the profitability and sustainability of their cropping land, Eion and his son Mark attended a Grains Best Management Practices (BMP) workshop in mid-2012 offered by the Three Rivers sub-region of Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA).
FBA developed Grains BMP with partners AgForce and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to help growers improve their businesses while also benchmarking industry performance.
The Andersons worked through modules that allowed them to self-assess their business against industry standards, and developed a plan of attack to reduce the loss of precious topsoil on their cultivation country. They decided the future of their business lay with a shift from conventional farming to minimum tillage and the installation of contour banks to limit sediment movement after rainfall events.
The Grains BMP program helped them recognise the benefits of key technologies involved in controlled traffic farming, such as a guidance systems for tractors to assist with the accurate application of seed, fertiliser, and chemicals.
They had been operating without any guidance system on farm and using a contractor for spraying cultivation, which wasn’t always practical due to demand for the contractors’ services.
With help from the Three Rivers sub-region to develop and submit a project application, the Anderson family obtained a grant from FBA through the Reef Rescue component of the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country.
The grant of $8623.75 was delivered in late 2012, matching an investment made by the Anderson family. The co-funding arrangement enabled them to purchase a Trimble CFX 750 with Omnistar XP/HP and EZ steer assisted steering system, which will be used for all tractors on their farm.
Controlling traffic on-farm reduce erosion and chemical use
The auto steer system has helped the Andersons be more precise in the movement of tractors across paddocks, and as a result reduce soil compaction and keep more soil water stored on-farm. The system has also improved the accuracy of pesticide application, leading to a reduction in the total amount of pesticide applied through minimisation of boom spray overlap.
With less chemicals needed and soil that captures more rainfall, the changes made by the Andersons will result in a reduction in sediment and pesticides moving into nearby waterways, protecting the reef ecosystem from contaminants.
“It has been a huge help to have the funding to upgrade our tractors to be more accurate to help our farming be more sustainable for the future,” Eion Anderson said.
The guidance equipment’s accuracy allows for discrepancies of +/- 10cm correction. The touch screen is able to operate in much finer discrepancies if the Andersons wish to update in the future by purchasing RTK +/- with 2cm accuracy.
The move toward controlled traffic farming has also given the family the ability to accurately log and map practices using the GPS firmware by recording applications, operators and prevailing conditions at the time of application.
Eion’s son Colin and his wife Jodi also attended a property mapping workshop and purchased mapping software with the grant money to assist with property planning and record-keeping.
An updated property map will enable the family to advance towards better on-ground management strategies and also assist with future property planning and development.