The sight of one of our neighbour’s paddocks blowing past our kitchen window in a nor wester is one of my enduring memories of the droughts which punctuated the 1980s in North Otago.
Thankfully it is something I’ve never seen since and one of the reasons for that is that soon after that happened direct drilling was introduced.
This low tillage method of cultivation doesn’t leave the soil exposed to wind and weather as conventional ploughing does and it is now the preferred practice in our district.
The drill revolutionised farming and its inventor has been nominated for the US$250,000 (NZ$327,000) World Food Prize.
Dr John Baker perfected the cross-slot seed drill over 30 years as a scientist at Massey University and then spent 10 years fighting to win ownership of it from companies the university sold it to.
He regained control of the drill in 1998, after $10 million had been spent on developing it, and set up a factory in Feilding to build them.
Cross-slot tillage is described as the keyhole surgery of farming. The drill creates two side-by-side pockets as it passes through the soil, depositing seed in one and fertiliser in the other.
Unlike ploughing, it does not disturb the surface of the soil and preserves soil micro-organisms and carbon. . .
. . . Nomination follows Baker reaching the finals of the World Technology Awards in 2010. Baker said the food prize nomination stemmed from his lift in profile at the technology awards.
“It awakened a lot of people to the fact 90 per cent of the world’s food is annual crops. They all start off as seed and if you don’t sow those seeds correctly, they won’t grow and we all starve.
The drill, sold widely in New Zealand at prices ranging from $200,000 to $600,000, is also being exported to 17 countries . . .
The inventor of the drill which protects soils and as a result increases yields is a worthy nominee for this prestigious prize.