Warren Darling, Timaru, New Zealand
In January this year Warren and Joy Darling from Timaru in New Zealand harvested 13.8 tonnes per hectare of barley off an irrigated 11.6ha block at their 450-hectare Poplar Grove Farm to smash the Guinness World Record for the highest barley yield – a record that had stood at 12.2 tonnes for some 25 years. The new world record was confirmed by Guinness World Records on April 15th.
With a cropping operation focused on a rotation of oilseed rape, wheat and winter barley all sown in the autumn, the Darlings also report an average wheat yield of 12 tonnes per hectare and an oilseed rape yield of around 6.3 tonnes.
“Our priority is normally wheat and it wasn’t until we cut 11.5 metric tonnes of barley per hectare in the previous year that we began to take a closer interest,” explained Warren.
“We looked at the previous record and how we might tweak things here and there to give us a good chance of beating it. We knew we had the right conditions and climate. We knew our soil was in great shape thanks to several years of min-till and incorporating residues. We just needed to enlist the support and resources of our agronomy and seed breeding partners to make it happen.”
But as Warren is happy to confirm, Great Plains cultivation and drilling technology also played a major role in his impressive achievement.
The residue chopping and mixing action performed by the one-pass Great Plains Simba SL 500 to maximise soil-to-straw contact in the top few inches of the soil together with its valuable loosening operation deeper down is at the heart of a min-till regime which Warren has perfected over several years. The result is a highly fertile growing platform.
Following on from the SL, Warren starts drilling in the autumn with his 6-metre Great Plains Centurion cultivator drill.
Warren invested in one of the first Centurions ever built, having visited the Great Plains factory in the UK to see the cultivator drill under development and subsequently forging a good relationship with Great Plains and with the manufacturer’s New Zealand importer, Power Farming Group.
The drill offers a number of important benefits for Warren’s min-till operation. “The large diameter discs and the generous spacings between the discs and the front and rear gangs means we can work through a lot of residue,” he explained.
Arranged over two rows, the Centurion’s 460mm diameter scalloped cultivation discs have a disc-to-disc spacing of 250mm and a 650mm clearance between the front and rear gangs. Plus the discs are set at the perfect angle to deliver optimum results.
Also important to Warren is the fact that the drill delivers even seed distribution to the seed coulters irrespective of the drill’s orientation. Warren attributes this in large part to the dimpled metal tubes that feed the seed distribution heads, which themselves are specially designed to promote air movement and optimise the air/seed mixture. Ahead of that, the metering roller features a unique flute design that eliminates ‘seed pulsing’.
“The design of the seed delivery system and the efficiency of the 00 Series Opener means we get really good control of seed placement accuracy and the seed firmer gives us consistent depth, which is vital for even emergence and good yields,” he said.
Specified by Warren with a 167mm coulter spacing (a 125mm row spacing is also available), the 00 Series Opener is simple yet highly effective. Adjustable down pressure maintains complete ground contact at all times. Seed placement accuracy is also enhanced by the seed tube which guides the seed to the bottom of the furrow and a seed flap which prevents the seed from bouncing out.
“Good depth control is key,” states Warren. “With the hopper weigh cells option fitted on the Centurion we get a consistent working depth across the full width of the machine over our hilly terrain.
“Depth adjustment is easy and we can also adjust the coulter down-pressure to suit our min-till operation and ensure that the coulter arm stays parallel to the ground at all times.”
Even, consistent consolidation is provided by the shallow cleated tread pattern of the large diameter, full width tyre packer placed ahead of the drilling coulters, but Warren is careful to ensure that the tyre pressures are right for the conditions and the soil.
Equipped with an ISOBUS system, data capture and display is delivered through a Müller Elektronik terminal.
Other options specified by Warren on his Centurion include seed blockage monitors, hopper weigh cells, a full-width levelling board, pre-emergence markers, hydraulic track eradicators, bout markers and press wheel scrapers and harrow.
Given all the hard work put into the world-record attempt by Warren, his wife and family and his agronomy and seed breeding partners, Warren needed to be confident that his machinery wouldn’t let him down. That confidence has certainly not been misplaced. “The Centurion has been great for us,” he enthused. “We know we can rely on it to get the job done.”