No-till seed drill may win further kudos

A New Zealand scientist and machinery manufacturer has had further international recognition for the unique no-tillage seed drill he developed years ago and now exports to 17 countries.

Dr John Baker from Feilding has been nominated for this year's World Food Prize, which is awarded to people who've made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. The prizewinner will be announced next month.

Dr Baker's company was a finalist in the World Technology Awards in New York, two years ago.

No tillage drilling avoids the destruction caused by ploughing, reducing losses of moisture and carbon from the soil, by sowing seeds directly into the ground through the remaining residue of the previous crop.

Advocates say such plantings grow faster with higher yields.

A former Massey University academic, Dr Baker led a research and development project and shepherded his no-tillage seed drill to a commercial prototype.

In 1995 he founded Baker No-Tillage Ltd in association with two of his university colleagues, Bill Ritchie and Dave Robinson.

The technology is now operating in 17 countries world-wide and is used on machines ranging from very narrow specialist research machines to 18m broad-acre toolbars.

Dr Baker says no tillage drilling accounts for 20% to 25% of the seed sown on New Zealand farms. His machines handle about a quarter of that.

Next story in Rural: Scientists pool freshwater knowledge