BALING OUT. David McGavin’s yield maps show lower wheat yields in 2015 (L) on sorghum fields that were baled in 2014 (R). Longtime Australian no-till researcher Greg Butler cautions against baling in extreme drought, as residue loss from the soil surface can lead to multiple problems the following year. Photo by: David McGavin

How Australian No-Tillers Farm Through Severe Drought

Multi-hybrid systems, weed control, residue & precision technology are keys to survival

Australian farmer David McGavin can relate to U.S. no-tillers who are dealing with drought conditions in 2023.

“I didn’t even know you had severe droughts over here,” McGavin says. “In Australia, we have some areas that might get only 1-2 inches of rain in a couple years. Sometimes if I’m on the road, and it’s raining back at my place, I’ll call home and say, ‘Send me a picture of the rain,’ just so I can see it.”

McGavin, who co-founded the Precision Seeding Solutions dealership in 2011 with his wife, Lauren, grew up on a 1,000-acre farm in New South Wales, a state in southeast Australia. Although drought is a regular occurrence in southern Australia, forward-thinking famers have been making no-till work down under since the 1960s. 


One of McGavin’s biggest learning experiences occurred in 2014. The year got off to a solid start with some early moisture, but rain was non-existent for most of the growing season, and the soils quickly dried up. 

“You could easily see the crops were struggling,” McGavin says. “Our sorghum went all pineapple-like and wasn’t recovering.” 

With no rain in sight, McGavin attempted to salvage a profit by baling the sorghum.  

“When you’re in the middle of a drought, fodder is always at a premium, so we did end up making reasonable money off it,” he says.

While the decision paid off in the short-term, it came with some consequences when McGavin planted wheat the following year.

“We have areas that get

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Noah Newman

Noah Newman started at Lessiter Media in March 2022 as Associate Editor for No-Till FarmerStrip-Till Farmer and Cover Crop Strategies. He previously worked in broadcast journalism as a sports anchor/reporter for television stations in central Illinois and most recently Jackson, Mississippi, where he was named the state’s sportscaster of the year by the National Sports Media Association. The Cleveland, Ohio, native looks forward to engaging with growers, learning extensively about their operations, and sharing impactful stories with the audience.

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