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A drastic drop of two thirds in their fuel account will ensure that the Du Preez father and son alliance of Grootpan farm near Lichtenburg will thankfully reminisce about the “old days” of staggering fuel costs, and then thank the Orthman 16 row XD 1tRIPr, which has cut its place on the farm with a wide savings swath through time and costs.
Kobus and his son, André, decided last year, shortly after harvesting, to take a big step and change to a system of minimum till. After many discussions with experts, and a visit to a pioneer in strip tillage, Christo Cronjé of Vrede, they decided strip-till was the way to go with Orthman technology.
André says previously they had to make so many passes that, when the sprayers and combine were through, up to 90 litres of fuel/hectare was used. Now it is about 31litres/hectare.
“The new tilling technology resulted in a huge mind-shift. We were thrown in at the deep end, says André.”
A 16 row Orthman XD 1tRIPr, with its precision nutrient placement technology, was ordered and arrived on the farm in October – almost two months after the time when they normally would have started tilling.
They quickly learnt a few lessons, says André, and are doing a few experiments of their own. The first lesson was that the Orthman could be trusted to do all the work on its own.
They mowed normally under the centre pivots after harvesting but this made the soil too soft for the heavy machine. The mealies was planted at the same depth but the soil level was not the same any more. “The machine actually prefers a hard crust to perform optimally,” says André.
André also experimented on mowed and un-mowed drylands and the growth in all the rows look promising. “The combine will show us what the yield figures look like.”
Experiments were also undertaken in wheat blocks. Traditionally the wheat stubble was burnt off before the next tilling. Only some lands were then burnt off, others left with the strip tilling stubble. André says the results look promising and burning is on its way out.
“It was no easy year in agriculture. Planting could only really begin from 17th December and we planted mealies up to Christmas; then sugar and white beans up to 12th January, and after that I planted my first sunflowers,” says André. “Everything was strip-tilled, which helped to utilise the limited planting window properly. Planting strips were prepared perfectly for precision planting.”
The Cronjes also produce chickens and use chicken manure as biological fertiliser. The XD 1tRIPr incorporates the manure properly in the soil, allowing it to decompose until the roots need it.
The strips are cultivated between 300 and 350 mm deep and the fertilizer is placed from 200 mm upwards. André improvised a mechanical change to allow extra fertilizer to be placed immediately below the soil surface.
The Orthman system fits the Du Preez precision farming like a glove. The two mass fertilizer tanks on the trailer can be calibrated independently, making it possible to do sectional control on every four rows. André says he calibrated one tank to deliver a constant 200 kg fertilizer/hectare. The other tank is used for fluctuating application according to the precision maps.
The Orthmann machine has its own satellite receiver and can set itself for further finer adjustments. Should the tractor stray from the pre-determined path, the steerable wheels underneath the fertilizer tanks will ensure that the strips are made where they should be. André intends cultivating the following year next to the previous year’s strip to prevent soil compaction.
“In the past year some things came unexpectedly but we are ready for the following season. We remain sure that the correct decision was made. Brian Nieuwoudt’s team provides excellent service. The machine was assembled in record time on the farm, calibrated and we have had no problems.”
More information regarding the advantages of strip tilling can be obtained from Brian Nieuwoudt on cellphone 076-283-0766 or landline 011-396-1629, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit the website www.orthman.com