THE smell of freshly turned soil has always taken Bruce Lumsden’s fancy.
For the Buckland Valley dairy farmer, the sight of neat furrows, the act of turning the soil and the aroma that fills the air after ploughing is what gets him excited.
Mr Lumsden talked of one of
his favourite farming activities ahead of the 57th World Ploughing Championship being held this weekend at Methven, west of Christchurch, in New Zealand.
Mr Lumsden was a judge at the same event held in Slovenia last year and competed on the world stage when the championship was held in Ontario, Canada, in 2003.
He competes regularly at the state and national competitions in Australia but decided farm work was a higher priority than international travel this time around.
Mr Lumsden does, however, have a finger on the pulse when it comes to the front runners.
“Australia’s prospects at the world contest are probably the best we’ve ever had but in context, we’re against competitors from Europe and the British Isles who have a long tradition in competitive ploughing and a great deal of knowledge,” he said.
“Because of the distance, our competitors have the chance to do the best they’ve ever done.
“But it is like going to ski against the Europeans.”
He expected the New Zealanders to do well, considering their “home ground advantage”, but the Austrians, Irish and Eastern European teams would be the ones to beat.
“It’s a subjectively judged sport — natural talent is obviously an advantage, you need to have done a lot of practice, have your own equipment and the luck of the plot draw all come into play,” he said.
“Not all ground is the same, sometimes it makes a difference if you get that bit of ground that wants to do all the right things for you and impress the judges.”
Otherwise, Mr Lumsden said the criteria were more complex than a layman may expect.
“Straightness is very important but it’s not the only element,” he said.
“It’s the way you get nice, even mouldboard furrows, the way the ground is nicely placed together, getting all the grass neatly covered under the ground and then aspects such as how you start and most importantly, how you finish.
“Also the clock is important — you have a three-hour period in which you must plough your ground.
“People with large broadacre equipment may think that’s a laugh but if you run out of time you lose five points per minute and you quickly go out of contention.”
Mr Lumsden said most ploughs were only two furrows wide and would be ploughing a 30 to 35cm furrow.
“It’s not a big plough but a sophisticated plough,” he said.
“We’re talking about a plough that was derived from horse ploughing but not in any way resembles horse ploughing anymore.”
The teams compete in two classes — conventional and reversible, the later meaning with a reversible mouldboard plough.
Mr Lumsden said he had been ploughing for about 40 years and he has somewhat of a plough collection on his Buckland Valley farm.
“I love seeing the earth turning over beautifully and making lovely furrows and the smell of the soil — it’s always taken my fancy,” he said.
“And I always have the desire to win (at ploughing competitions) but I guess on many occasions I have to eat humble pie and be placed further down the field.
“But it’s also the social side of it, the people we meet and, for many people, the opportunity to go to places in the world they’d never think of going to.
“We’re dairy farmers and Robyn and I made a holiday of our time away last year because we hadn’t been to Europe.”