A NSW farmer is using an Alstrong aerator to develop better ways to manage pasture for long-term productivity.
The Alstrong aerator is available in Australia and New Zealand through the Duncan division of Giltrap Engineering. It features a unique blade design and weight transfer system that has the ability to shatter hard pans to a depth of 30 cm with very little soil disturbance.
Blades on the Alstrong aerator are set almost perpendicular to the direction of travel but at a slight angle, which adds a twisting motion that helps break soil pans.
The weight of the roller is concentrated on each blade as it enters the soil, and the fast working speeds (up to 20 km/h) also help shock and fracture the soil.
Alstrong aerators come in three different versions: trailed models with widths of 2.5 m wide or 3m, and a 3m-wide three-point linkage model.
Duncan chief executive Craig Mulgrew said Alstrong aerators were versatile machines that could also be used to prepare a seedbed in ploughed ground or could be fitted with a broadcast seeder.
“There are a number of benefits to aerating pasture,” Mr Mulgrew said.
“By reducing compaction from stock and equipment it increases tolerance to drought, releases nitrogen in the soil, and improves surface drainage.”
Sam Grills is a farmer-grazier near Guyra, in the New England region of NSW. The Grills family primarily produces pasture to support its cattle and sheep herds.
Mr Grills bought an Alstrong aerator last year in the middle of the drought, which he said might not make sense to some.
However, he made the decision to downsize sheep numbers to focus on the long-term sustainability of the family’s land, rather than push it to the extremes for short-term profit.
“For many years our type of country has been over-grazed as farming families have tried to make a living. I felt it was up to this generation to do something about this. We need to change the way we manage our land.
“I did some research and came across the Alstrong aerator. It was the first time I had seen this specific design, which fractures the ground when it is working at the right speed. I felt this was the key point in the use of this machine.
“Although it is in the early stages of use, I think the Alstrong has a place here in certain conditions. I have found it most useful for fallow ground in that it prepares the earth before sowing a return crop.
“It seems to fluff up the ground in preparation for sowing and helps the seedbed retain moisture. The conditions for growth appear to be improved.
“I have not had a lot of experience with it and the results have been mixed, partly because our season has been unpredictable to say the least.”
Mr Grills said an interesting side effect was that the cattle that had grazed the paddocks that had been aerated seemed to be in better health and more energetic than other stock that had only grazed non-aerated paddocks.
“I will continue to use the Alstrong aerator as I have been and I am open to other methods. I am happy to learn from farmers in New Zealand, where it has been used for a longer period.”