Rock crusher lets you grow more crop

Rock crusher lets you grow more crop

Rocks Gone founder and former WA northern wheatbelt farmer, Tim Pannell, developed the Reefinator range.

The Land, 29 Oct 2020

A primary ripper designed to help growers renovate difficult soils characterised by stratification, extreme hard pans, rocks or stumps is paying dividends across the nation's agricultural areas.

The Rocks Gone hydraulic Reefinator H4 was developed in Western Australia specifically to help ameliorate these soil constraints to depth and lift crop and pasture productivity.

Company founder and former Yuna farmer, Tim Pannell, said many growers grappled with the economics of how to best tackle the rocky paddocks they may have been ignoring.

"These are areas where water sheets-off the ground surface and causes problems for other paddocks or the landscape," he said.

"It is hard to get a seeder through and returns are continually below average."

Mr Pannell said he developed the Reefinator H4 to transform these areas and economically boost whole farm productivity by crushing rocks and deep ripping.

"The machine is capable of rapidly and permanently transforming rocky outcrops into crop seedbeds," he said.

"Water will stay where the rain falls, instead of running downhill, gathering speed and eroding and causing waterlogging and salinity issues in lower-lying country.

"You can then grow a decently profitable crop or pasture - with the added benefit that the renovated higher country will be less frost-prone."

Manufactured in Manjimup, WA, and available exclusively through WSB Distributors in South Australia and Victoria, the innovative Reefinator H4 has been extensively and successfully used under a range of farming conditions.

It was voted the Best Australian-made Machine at the 2019 Yorke Peninsula Field Days.

Mr Pannell said experience indicated the pay-back period for the Reefinator H4 could be as short as two years in some conditions.

He said the amelioration process also mixed crushed rock back through the soil, which could help to reduce potential erosion problems.

"The Reefinator H4 can renovate country at a far greater speed and much more effectively than traditional methods of deep ripping," he said.

"Unlike many deep rippers commonly used by farmers, the machine is also ideal as the first ripper for untouched land and soils that have never before been ripped to depth."

The Reefinator H4 has a working width of three metres and, typically, is operated at a speed of 10-13 kilometres per hour.

Some of the rock it is crushing can be at a hardness of about 70 megapascals (MPa), which is significantly denser than good concrete.

In most agricultural situations, three to five passes are needed.

But only one pass can be effective if it is being used as a rough country deep ripper.

Farmers can typically treat about 10 hectares per day with the Reefinator H4, which can be faster than many other deep ripping operations. .

Mr Pannell said there was a cultivation effect, which - in forest gravel-type soils in particular - assisted with issues of: waterlogging/non-wetting; rhizoctonia and soil pathogen management; and crop or pasture seed germination.

But he warned that improved germination applied to everything in the paddock - and it was best to be prepared for double or triple herbicide knocks for weed control.

"This can be a positive in providing an excellent opportunity to manage the weed seedbank," he said.

"Also, many growers apply soil amendments - such as lime or gypsum - before using the Reefinator H4 to incorporate these into the soil during the process."

Mr Pannell said the machine was ideally suited for use on heavy country that had a high proportion of stumps and rocks.

He said some key improvements had been made to the Reefinator H4 from the previous model, including a hydraulic tyne system to replace the manual tyne and shear-pin design.

"This allows for more 'give and take' when the machine is being dragged over rocks," he said.

"If there is a hidden extra-hard rock, the tyne will kick-back but - in the process - the angle of the point becomes a lot steeper and this will bust the rock.

"The new design also tends to smooth-out the bumps better than the manual tyne system - and there are no shear pins to replace."

There are four leading tynes at the front and five tynes at the back and the Reefinator H4 has a new cable-suspended, front-mounted leveling blade/smudge bar to help smooth the ground during treatment.

The tyne hydraulic system features a 32 litre accumulator designed to handle up to 3000 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure. But typically the working pressure range is about 1000-1500psi.

Hoses plumbed from the cylinders are 25 millimetres in diameter to accommodate high speed flow on impact.

"Pressure can ramp-up quickly and, with smaller hoses, oil can't escape fast enough from the cylinder," Mr Pannell said.

The machine's ribbed roller weighs 30 tonnes when full of water and it leaves an indented surface, which is erosion-resistant and anecdotally has been found to improve crop and pasture germination on some soil types.

"Some farmers are seeing a very visual effect when the Reefinator H4 is transported across a paddock between rocky patches," Mr Pannell said. The Reefinator H4 was built using local machining and components.

Visit Rocks Gone at or contact (08) 9288 2993.

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