As I sit here on the tractor at the start of another 1.5km pass, I’m planting chickpeas at about 8.5km/hour. Our 17m seeder bar, which has 56 tynes will cover 2.5 Ha while completing that pass. We’re planting chickpeas at 135kg per hectare, meaning that in the 10 minutes it takes me to complete this pass, I’ve planted nearly 350kgs of Chickpeas.
I make the turn at the end of the run and I can resume my blog post because the Steering Controller informs me I’ve got 19 satellites & a base station keeping me on the straight and narrow. So narrow it deviates less than 5cm off straight most of the time. So straight I will be able to seed in between the 300mm rows next year. The controller also passes my exact ground speed onto the seeding controller, so that in addition to the seed, the fertiliser, innoculatant and snail bait is all metered out at the right rate.
We also put phosphorous fertiliser out with the chickpeas. We don’t need to put out nitrogen, because chickpeas are a legume that fix their own N. The ‘innoculant’ I mentioned earlier aids in this process of fixing nitrogen into the soil.
All going well we’ll put nearly 17 tonnes of chickpeas into the soil in this paddock. That’s enough for a lot of chickpea salad, or curry. At the moment we don’t know how many chickpeas we’ll get back at the end of the year. They’re fussy little things. If its too wet they die. If its too dry they die. If it’s too humid they get disease and die. Last year they went pretty well. They yielded roughly 1.8 T/Ha. Another way of thinking about it is we harvested about 15 seeds for every one we planted. Not bad odds. You’d take an annual return like that on the share market.
These numbers may seem impressive and maybe they are. But wheat can return 100 seeds to 1 sown, and canola nearly 1000. But you don’t often hear farmers talking about these sorts of numbers or technologies, because to us there’s nothing extraordinary about them. Far from cutting edge, the GPS tech I mentioned above is older than the iPhone, Blu-ray and the Xbox 360. But all this and a lot more is what goes into something as basic as your chickpea salad lunch.