Implementing zero-till planting systems in the NSW sugar industry
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The project ‘Implementing Zero-Tillage Planting Systems in the NSW Sugar Industry’ aimed to introduce a direct drill billet planter to plant extensive areas of trial and commercial cane in the three mill areas of NSW. A group of NSW cane farmers called the NSW farming systems group wanted to evaluate the commercial viability of direct drill billet planters and a Hodge dual row double disc billet planter was purchased. Trial sites were established in the Condong, Broadwater and Harwood mill areas comparing zero-till planted cane with cane planted into conventionally tilled ground. These trials aimed to compare the economics of both systems and to demonstrate the robustness of a zero-tillage farming system. Nine months after planting, biomass sampling took place at the tillage trial that was established on Woodford Island. Yield results indicated no significant differences between the two systems. An economic analysis indicates that a net return of $2627/ha for a zerotillage farming system compared to $2506/ha for the conventional farming system. This equates to a $121/ha saving when adopting the reduced input system. These figures do not take into account labour savings and soil health benefits that are associated with the zero-tillage planting system. Over the past two years 23 growers across the three NSW mill areas have used the Hodge to plant a total of 210 hectares of both trial and commercial areas of cane. It is estimated that up to 200 hectares will be planted with the Hodge in 2007 demonstrating that the system is gaining momentum every year.