Over And Out

Its been other great season working at Norwood in Moree, we finished the last irrigation on Monday which fitted in well with me finishing up on Friday  So between Monday and Friday it was a mixture of chipping, shed work while flying in the afternoon to build up hours for my licence.

We were chipping because it was a CSIRO plant trial for new varieties of cotton and was surrounded by conventional cotton so neither of them could be sprayed with round up. This means large weeds have been able to grow in the cotton which could damage the cotton picker and  the cotton samples.

The slasher and root cutter was in the shed to have all the blades replaced and the root cutting disks measures and adjusted so they would have the correct overlap allowing them to cut efficiently for the upcoming picking season. This was a slow process made even slower by getting the fork lift bogged, with the heavy rear end and the small tires it made it really easy for the fork lift to fall through the soil causing it to bottom out. A quick tow with the tractor and it was back to work.

Because of all of the rain in the past few weeks we hadn’t been able to do any slashing and the airstrip was becoming over grown along with other some spots. The old tractor had no radio, the only air con was a open door and it struggled to hold the three point linkage at hight but it got the job done and the airstrip cleared.

Now I’m about to start my next challenge; starting university hopefully it’ll go alright but I’ll still be going back to Moree from time to time so I can write about what they’re are doing. In the mean time I’ll be writing about farming issues or other aspects of farming, feel free to leave a comment or check out my other websites Farming Photo’s and Cotton Careers.

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Last Round

That’s it we’re done, irrigation is over for another year, so no more walking the rows, no more starting and pulling siphons and no more raking the trash racks, its also my last week for the season before I head off to start uni. But there’ll still be plenty to do in that week between chipping and preparing rigs for ground prep and getting ready to plant winter crops as well as the many other tasks, so we won’t won’t be letting up any time soon.

The last irrigation was finished in record time but it wasn’t with out mishap though, unfortunately we had we blow out on one of the channels two days into the irrigation but it fixed quickly with the loader. We also arrived one morning to find a pump choking on its own air filter, it was blowing smoke so thick that I thought the pump site was on fire when driving up the driveway, but again it was a quick fix with just a simple change of air filter needed.

The cotton is coming along pretty good with all the lower bolls opening up on the plants, the rest should be open very soon with picking predicted to start in about seven weeks. Defoliation will probably start in late February after the top bolls have opened up, defoliation is a process where a chemical is sprayed on the cotton to make the leaves fall off so contamination is reduced during picking. But when picking time comes I’ll explain all of this in more detail.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, thanks for reading if you have any questions or want to leave your thoughts please feel free to leave them in the comment section, check out our new page “The Lighter Side” and the new photos on “Farming Photo’s“.

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Its A Bit Wet

Well its not flooding in Moree but its still very very wet and its making it a bit tricky to get around the farm or just get any where, including up the driveway where I had water go over the bonnet of my Holden ute (water wasn’t moving only risk was electronics failure and a short walk in the rain). By around lunch time today we’d had 100 millimetres of rain and counting but it seems to have stopped now, worried that it might keep raining and cut the road I made the mistake of going out to the farm to drop in my time sheet and then decided to stick around and take a few photos.  Three hours later I was still there.

I was tagging along with manager and the other two fellas who had came into work, water was backing up into the cotton fields and had to be moved quickly to stop water logging. It is a challenge that is a lot easier said then done as the backing up water wasn’t just from the rain falling on the fields and the farm but it was also from the water that was rushing across from the neighbouring property. Even with pumps going at full pace and the gates fully open water was still managing to run over the drop boxes and blow out some channels. The majority of gates are hand operated but some need a hydraulic pump that it run off the ute’s gear box, its a great help for opening some of the real big gates on the property. The water also made it a real challenge to get around.

Just going up the driveway was a big enough challenge with the mud and the neighbours run off giving my commodore a bit of trouble (again there was no danger even though it was fast flowing water it wasn’t deep and the only risk was getting bogged and a awkward phone call), but the commodore powered through and made it to the shed. When I got the shed I got it the old 1996 Toyota Hilux, its an old thing and really battled in spots to get through when the speedo was reading a very optimistic 30 kmph, the engine revving over 4000 rpm, steam coming off the bonnet and more smoke coming out the exhaust then a steam engine. We didn’t get bogged but there where a few close calls and we got very close to the edge of some channels at various times.

We eventually got all the gates set up and water was starting to drain, so as soon as we were back at the shed I jumped soaking wet into my ute and heading straight out the gate. With over 100 millimetres of rain we’ll be able to skip an irrigation so I’ll have a bit of spare time on my hands, I got a fair bit of video footage so I’ll probably try and put them together into some sort of video.

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A Bit Of Variety

Wednesday night was the last night of this irrigation cycle with day shift wrapping up the final field Thursday afternoon, so it was an early start on Friday to go chipping. Volunteer cotton from last season was coming up in one of the refugee crops and needed to be removed, the only way to remove it is to chip it out so we had to walk up and down the rows and chip out the volunteer cotton and weeds with a hoe. Its not the best job to do but it needs to be done.

Luckily for me I got asked to change the points (the bits that go through the dirt) on a plough halfway through the morning, I always find it amazing that dirt can wear down metal as quickly as they do so its all ways some thing that need to be watched. While the plough was in the shed we gave it a full check over finding a couple of loose tines and a sheared pin, soon it was all fixed and ready to go back to the field.

The last couple of days have brought rain to the area, its not really what you want to have just after irrigation as it can water log the cotton but it can’t be controlled so you just have to look on the brighter side as it’ll help save a bit of water by putting of the next irrigation for a few extra days. More rain is still predicted for tonight and the next few days and should make it very wet and slippery but again it will help to save water and we may even get a bit of run off.

To see all the sights of the farming world check out Farming Photo’s or The Farm Gallery

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Flying Along

With a couple of days gap the between irrigation cycles  we were able to have to weekend off, so I decided to try my hand at a bit of water skiing. It was good fun (when you eventually get up on the skis) but it can leave you feeling stiff and sore the next day, plus I think I’m the only person who’s been able to run over themselves on a knee board. But it was back to work Sunday night.

I started back at work Sunday night and we’ve been flying along since then, with four fields on the goon Sunday and then six on the go last night, more than enough to keep us busy all night trying to keep the water up to the paddocks while running around doing the changes. Fortunately even with all the fields going we didn’t blow any channels but we did start to fall behind in the changes and had to leave a couple for day shift to do. Hopefully we’ll be able to get through all paddocks and be done this cycle by Australia Day.

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Checking The Probes

The moisture probes are critical to running of an irrigation property, they tell us how much water is in the soil profile, how much water the crop is using and most important it tells us when we need irrigate the cotton. There are a couple of types of moisture probes about; one type is a electrical probe that works by measuring the conductivity between two wires in the ground, the better the conductivity the more moisture.

The type of moisture probe we use is called a Neutron Moisture Probe we have been using it on the farm for years and find it to be simple and effective method, it works by lowering the probe down a aluminium tube in the ground, the probe then release fast neutrons which lose energy and slow down when they collide with hydrogen the slow neutrons are detected and give a reading. The probe then takes more readings at different depths to give a complete picture of the moisture profile, then once all readings are completed the probe is plugged into the computer which makes up a graph showing the moisture level, usage and how long till irrigation is needed, making managing the crop a whole lot easier. Unfortunately because it uses radiation the operator needs to be accredited so its usually done by the farm agronomist.

If you have any questions on the moisture probes or anything else just leave a comment.

For more amazing sights in the world of farming check out Farming Photo’s

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Getting Wild

The weather has really rolled in the past few nights, with lighting storms hammering the area two nights ago making for some spectacular sights but at the same time causing large amounts damage. Winds that were up to 90 kmph dropped trees all around Moree with some falling on power lines and knocking out the power with them, lighting also took its toll on the power lines blowing up a pole near where we were working. The sight was incredible and all over in under a second even though it seemed to go on for minutes, there was the loud crack of the thunder and the pole lit up like a Christmas tree, then this bright glow travelled across the wire to the next pole before it lit up as well. Understandably we high tailed it back to shed after that, taking refuge for a while until the storm passed.

Last night the storms rolled in again bringing more rain and lightening and once again knocking out the power, although the rain looked promising at the start it was unfortunately not enough to stop irrigation, just enough to make the road very slippery and difficult to drive around on. It also made us busier as the water was getting through the fields a lot quicker than normal, so they needed to be changed more often keeping us in a constant loop of field changes.

So I’m still irrigating on night shift which is why I’ve started to focus more on how we grow cotton in recent posts, other wise I would of run out of things to write about weeks ago. Irrigation is just a cycle and moves around in circles starting back up as soon as we finish leaving not a lot of variety to right about, so I hope you’ll enjoy more articles about how we grow cotton instead of what I’m doing.

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Fertiliser It’s Not All Shit

The key to a good crop is good nutrition, just like we need to eat food so does the crop the only difference being it gets its food from the soil. A crops nutritional requirements can range significantly depending on the soil and its composition, but there’s one nutrient a cotton crop always needs to make it as good as it can possibly be and its nitrogen.

Nitrogen has the chemical symbol N, is number seven on the periodic table and makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere, but what does this have to do with cotton? Nitrogen is also essential to building the amino acids that make up protein, making nitrogen essential to all life on earth.

So how do we get it into the fields you may ask, some of you may have noticed large tanks in my previous posts well these large tanks aren’t for holding water there for holding nitrogen liquid fertiliser (not liquid nitrogen), this fertiliser can range anywhere from 4% to 42% nitrogen. The nitrogen is then added to the channels in regulated amounts and enters the field when it is irrigated (one of the reasons why water from farms can not be added back into water ways), the nitrogen then enters the ground and is absorbed by the roots of the plants, the plant then uses it to make protein and grow.

Other ways of adding nitrogen to the field is through the aerial application of urea just before rain so it is watered down into the soil and won’t burn the plant. Another method is gassing the field, this usually occurs before planting or in the early stages of plant growth and involves adding liquid nitrogen  (yes this time I do mean the really cold stuff) directly into the soil were it turn to gas and remains for the plants to use. A natural way of adding nitrogen is through crop rotation of legumes such as the refuge crop pigeon peas (see last post “Taking Refuge”), legumes naturally create there own nitrogen through a bacteria that lives on there roots, the nitrogen then remains in the soil after the plant is gone.

I hope this answers more questions about modern farming and if you have any more questions please comment.

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Taking Refuge

Everyone takes refuge from something, just like I take refuge from the sun and heat by working nights the bugs take refuge from pesticides and GM cotton in a refuge crop such as pigeon peas. Refuge crops are crops that are not sprayed and provide a safe haven for both beneficial insects and pest insects such Helicoverpa, this forms part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for cotton. So what is Helicoverpa and IMP and why do we need refuge crops?

Lets start with what Helicoverpa and IPM are, Helicoverpa is a moth that lays its eggs on the leaves of the cotton plant, the caterpillar then eats the leaves moving its way up the plant until the start to eat the cotton boll (the fruit of the plant which contains the cotton), the plant then discards the cotton boll and the yield suffers. An integrated pest management (IPM) program is a way to effectively control pests using a combination of controls such as biological, chemical and mechanical. Using a variety of controls prevents resistance building up and allows for more effective controls. So what does this have to do refuge crops?

With the introduction of GM cotton we have been able to reduce the use of pesticides by over 80% because the cotton plant has had a gene spiced into it that gives it a natural resistance to Helicoverpa. If the only control method used is the GM cotton than the Helicoverpa will build up resistance and it won’t be as effective, the same goes if only GM and pesticides are used, the resistance will build up to quickly. So if we allow populations of Helicoverpa to live in refuge crop unaffected by pesticides and GM they will mix and breed with resistant Helicoverpa and help to lower the overall level of resistance in the species, allowing our methods of control to work for a longer period of time.

I hope this helps to explain more about what we do and why GM is benefiting farmers. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

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