Far North Queensland sugar cane grower Ray Zamora is breaking new ground this cane planting season.
In an industry-first, the fourth-generation farmer from Euramo has modified a dual row double disc planter to include a crimp roller and other componentry so he can achieve zero-till planting on his family’s 110ha property near Tully. Mr Zamora finished planting last week and said he was thrilled to see his mixed species cover crop still in the ground with the cane planted underneath it.
“We planted through the cover crop that way we can keep living roots in the earth as long as possible and there is only one pass for the cover crop and then the planting,’’ he said. The Zamora’s received funding from the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust III Water Quality Incentives Grants program to buy a second-hand planter and make modifications to it.
Modifications to the planter included adding the crimp roller, and changing rolling and soil-cover components, disc-opener angles and the planter’s width to suit Mr Zamora’s farming system based on 1.9m row spacings and dual rows 500mm apart.
“With the extended season length it’s not viable sometimes to plant a cover crop at Christmas time,” Mr Zamora said. “This system allows me to come back in April when the wet season is over to plant a mixed species cover crop.”
His current fallow crop is a mixture of tillage radish, field brassica, Japanese millet, Rhodes grass and triticale, which help improve the soil’s health and structure.
“I don’t think it’s sustainable to keep adding more and more artificial fertilisers for poor soil health,” he said.