How does the type of soil and climate affect the use of surface tillage and harrows in farming?

Go to any farm in Australia and it’s likely the soil will be unique. In fact, even paddocks side-by-side can have different soil types.

The climate, too, can vary markedly. From the significant rainfalls in the summer in the northern parts of Australia to the states where it rains moderately all year round and everything in between.

Which makes choosing equipment for surface tillage a difficult proposition.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could invest in one product that could help you control the depth of your surface tillage, no matter the soil or climate? Well, you can, but you’ll need to wait until later in this post for the answer.

Soil types

It was Dorothea Mackellar who wrote the poem My County, which begins: “I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.”

It’s a poem that succinctly sums up Australia and provides a small insight into the variability of Australian conditions. And this can be seen in Australia’s soils.

There is a huge diversity of soil in Australia, and Soil Science Australia does its best to describe each State or Territory’s iconic soil. In truth, however, there are major differences within states.

After all, in WA alone, the straight line distance of 2400 kilometres between Kununurra in the northeast of the state and Albany in the southwest!

There are many different types of soil in Australia that can be summed up in 9 main types:

  1. Sandy soil
  2. Silt soil
  3. Clay soil
  4. Loam soil
  5. Peat soil
  6. Silt loam
  7. Clay loam
  8. Sandy clay loam
  9. Loamy sand

Each soil type has different characteristics and issues, all of which surface tillage and harrows can improve. For example:

  • The soil texture and structure affect how well the soil holds water. In sandy soils, surface tillage and harrows can help break up compaction and improve water retention. In clay soils, surface tillage practices can help break down large clumps and improve drainage.
  • Compacted soil restricts root growth and water infiltration. Surface tillage and harrows can help alleviate compaction, promoting better root development and water movement through the soil.
  • Loose, sandy soils are prone to erosion, and while some form of tillage can be required to prepare the soil for crops, deep tillage can lead to erosion. Surface tillage can help reduce erosion while still removing weeds, returning crop residue to the soil and preparing the seedbed.
Soil Types

Climate

Climate also has a significant impact on the soil and, therefore how surface tillage is conducted.

Different factors to consider when it comes to climate include:

  1. In regions with heavy rainfall, deep tillage can disrupt the soil structure and increase the risk of erosion. Surface tillage practices are preferred to retain soil cover. In drier climates, surface tillage can help retain moisture and reduce water runoff.
  2. Harrowing or surface tillage can help break up surface crusts that form due to temperature extremes. For example, this can improve seed emergence in cold climates where frost heaving occurs.
  3. Climate influences the timing of planting and growing seasons. In cold climates, surface tillage can help warm the soil faster in spring, aiding early planting. In warmer climates, tillage may be used to prepare the soil before the rainy season.
  4. Windy conditions can lead to soil erosion, especially in arid regions. Properly timed surface tillage can help stabilise the soil while still preparing it for seeding.
  5. In climates with freezing and thawing cycles, surface tillage can disrupt soil layers and expose plant roots to frost heaving. Timing surface tillage to avoid these cycles can mitigate this issue.
Climate

Bute Discs takes care of all your surface tillage needs

In the introduction, we mentioned that in an ideal world, there would be a product that you could use for all your surface tillage work. No matter your soil type, no matter the climate.

Well, there is, and Bute Discs has the answer.

Bute Discs’ range of disc chains can be used on any farm and in any season due to its versatility. For example:

  • Our disc chain system comes with adjustable weights that can quickly and easily be added or taken off, depending on your soil conditions. There are four different chain weights in the one system.
  • Bute Discs’ disc chain comes in two gap sizes, so allows you to adapt your surface tillage equipment to your farm.
  • There’s also the choice of cutting discs and standard discs, depending on which suits your needs better.

This versatility is why we say with confidence that our disc chains are for every soil and every season. And it’s why you should contact Bute Discs to find out more.

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