Dig deep for big gains

Experimental machine built for deep placement of fertiliser

Machinery
DIG DEEP: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' experimental deep placement machine, nicknamed the 'Orange Beast'. Photo: DAF

DIG DEEP: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' experimental deep placement machine, nicknamed the 'Orange Beast'. Photo: DAF

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Queensland researchers have built an experimental machine for the deep placement of fertiliser

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Need is the mother of invention, so when a Queensland based soils researcher couldn't find the machine he needed to test his research he partnered with a local fabricator to build it.

Nicknamed the 'Orange Beast', the deep fertiliser placement machine will allow researchers to quantify the benefits of placing nutrients, such as phosphorus and potassium deep in the soil profile where plant roots can access them later in the season.

The machine can also be used to place soil ameliorates, such as gypsum, for research into managing sub-soil sodicity.

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researcher Dr David Lester said the machine allowed the scientists to carry out more diversified research.

"There are a number of benefits of placing products, such as gypsum and compost, at depth," he said.

"For example, by putting phosphorus and potassium 20 cm down into the soil of grain crops, plant roots have better access to it."

Dr Lester said the customised machine was of particular interest to growers and agronomists on the heavier soil types found in Queensland and northern NSW, as much of the existing machinery was built for lighter soils.

"Due to Queensland's far heavier soil types, existing machinery is currently a limitation to the outcomes witnessed in other states," he said.

"Putting things like gypsum or compost deeper in the soil has been a challenge in Queensland for a long time, and not something commercially practiced yet."

Dr Lester said he worked with Kingaroy based DAF facility manager Scott Campbell, and Coulston Lakes' local machinery fabrication business, Seabrook Seeders, to design modifications on an existing deep fertiliser placement machine built by Toowoomba-based company, Tillage Traders Queensland.

"Together, we created the Orange Beast, a machine that has provided flexibility to tackle many chemical and physical constraints in a way we haven't had before," Dr Lester said.

"It took us about three tries to refine the system and get it to where we are now. We really struggled in trying to make something to handle a broad range of material characteristics, but once we settled on the characteristics of the materials we wanted to apply, the process became clearer."

Dr Lester said growers and agronomists were excited to see the Orange Beast showcased at field walks across Queensland.

"Now all we need is the rain to get a crop planted to see what the results will be," he said.

The story Dig deep for big gains first appeared on Farm Online.

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