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Crocodile plough trial shows promise for managing pasture

A trial using a crocodile plough to manage and improve pasture has shown promising results in the Kimberley.

Kurt and Nikki Elezovich from Country Downs Station, about 90km north of Broome, took part in the trial, following a positive pre-trail using a smaller crocodile plough last year.

Rangelands NRM, through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, is supporting land managers to look after the land and manage the soil health in order to improve the resilience and productivity of the land.

Rangelands NRM’s Project Manager (Kimberley) Mel McDonald said the project aimed to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of using a crocodile plough as a diverse pasture improvement and management tool to improve ground cover and reduce woody weeds on Pindan soils in the Kimberley.

The crocodile plough was sourced from the Northern Territory and work on Country Downs began in January 2015, with the plough being pulled by a D4D dozer.

“From our experience, using a crocodile plough to improve pasture in Pindan soils certainly has merit,” Country Downs’ Kurt Elezovich said.

Mr Elezovich reported the water harvesting pits created by the plough work well in the lighter soil and would be great for reducing overland flow, and that it was good for renovation of burnt wattle 2-3metres tall, however, saplings of 1-2 metres tall were too whippy and stood back up.

Mrs McDonald said the trial showed promising results but certainly uncovered the challenges involved in using a crocodile plough.

“It is not simply a matter of towing it across the landscape, Mr Elezovich said. “Some farming and farm machinery experience is necessary and it is advisable to trial the smaller crocodile plough first to learn how to use it.”

During the trial, the divots could potentially have been too deep covering the seed with too much soil leading to reduced germination, according to Mr Elezovich. However, this can be adjusted in the future.

He also said it was difficult to achieve the desired 2kg/Ha distribution rate, which had to be calculated by weighing the seed and calculating the length of the run by the width of the plough.

The apertures on the plough were adjusted to reduce seed flow however they could not be closed too much as to not allow the larger seeds to flow through at the same rate as the smaller seeds.

He added “the crocodile plough appears the least labour intensive method of seed distribution we have used to date.”

Mrs McDonald said this trial was part of a project that works with pastoralists to increase adoption of sustainable land management techniques to protect natural resources.

“It’s great to get such comprehensive feedback on the machine from Kurt that other land holders can learn from,” she said.

“Unfortunately, however, the crocodile plough did not prove easy to pull apart and put back together and will not be as easily shared amongst properties as we had hoped.”

Images

(Top Left) A Crocodile Plough being trialled to improve land and pasture condition on pindan soils at Country Downs Station

(Middle Right) Divots made by the crocodile plough proved effective water harvesting pits but potentially planted seed too deep