Air front ‘saves’ chickpea crop

Pod saver: An air front would pay for itself many times over according to North Star farmer Jeff Nixon. Air reels are often used on soy, fabas and lentils.
Pod saver: An air front would pay for itself many times over according to North Star farmer Jeff Nixon. Air reels are often used on soy, fabas and lentils.

Thinking outside the box and using an air front on the header has saved thousands of dollars by dramatically improving the pick up for a PBA Seamer chickpea crop at North Star.

The Nixon family, trading as Merwood Farming, has a huge amount of experience growing chickpeas – being the one of the first few farms to grow the popular legume commercially in northern NSW in 1982.

“Thirty odd years ago chickpeas were worth three times what wheat was and we have sort of had that for the last year or two,” Jeff Nixon said.

For the past four years Mr Nixon said they had been growing PBA Seamer chickpea seed and while it’s disease tolerance was excellent, it had proved tough to head, exhibiting some of the issues of the older style chickpeas when it comes to harvesting.

“Younger farmers these days have been spoon fed for too long,” he said.

“This is what it used to be like all of the time with chickpeas. PBA HatTrick made harvesting less of a problem.”

Mr Nixon said after losing an unacceptable amount of grain on that first day of chickpea harvest a few weeks ago, he started looking for a solution.

“We tracked down a reel, via an email to Canada, then a contact in South Australia, only to find one 80km away from home,” he said.

“It was missing a few fittings, which the Australian agent was able to send up from Kadina in South Australia. We put it together, and had it up and running by the time the ground dried out.”

He harvested close to 4t/ha from the 80ha of chickpeas under the centre pivot.

“We sprayed it out and harvested it seven days later without trouble with a normal draper front without the air reel, but in the lighter dryland crop we were losing a lot,” he said.

“The air reel cut our losses by 80 or 90 per cent in the dryland crop. Instead of rattling the pods to the ground, which is particularly an issue with Seamer and not so much HatTrick, it’s like a vacuum cleaner just at the knife – everything in that air stream is going into the header.

“Before the air reel was in the front of the pick up we probably dumped 30t on the ground, when we were trying to get it in before it rained.

“That afternoon we lost thousands of dollars worth of chickpeas.”

While the air front isn’t for everyone, Mr Nixon said it was a good thing to have in the shed.

“On black soil it tends to blow everything that’s loose straight into your header, on our soil, even though we weren’t picking up much with the header, because there was rain splash on the plants and loose soil we were getting more soil with the air front.”

Mr Nixon said he felt Seamer had attracted some unwarranted criticism. 

“The ascochyta blight management is a lot easier the other benefit of the Seamer is we haven’t had any issues with mould,” he said.

“You really can’t do much if you have got mould in your chickpeas. 

“The yield this year it’s possibly yielded better than HatTrick if you picked it all up, maybe if you couldn’t get it all you were behind HatTrick.”