Grain growers considering expensive machinery investments to overcome soil compaction have been reminded to consult the Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) Calculator to help make informed decisions.
CTF – the use of in-line wheel tracks – is increasingly being adopted across the grainbelt to minimise the impact of soil compaction on crop yields.
The online calculator was developed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development with co-investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, to evaluate the potential yield benefits from proposed CTF machinery purchases.
Small improvements have been made to the functionality of the CTF Calculator recently, to ensure it continues to meet farmers’ and consultants’ requirements.
Department development officer Bindi Isbister said there were substantial gains to be made by growers with compacted soils by converting to a CTF system.
“Research has shown that in an average Australian no-till system, 40 to 60 per cent of the paddock becomes compacted in the first pass,” Ms Isbister said.
“By investing in a fully matched system, that impact can be reduced to nine to 12 per cent.
“CTF generates other benefits, including improved in-crop access, better soil aeration and drainage of heavier soils and reduced fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The CTF Calculator allows the user to input their current and proposed machinery combinations for each cropping operation, requiring the machinery operating width, tyre sizes and spacings
It then generates the percentage of the paddock wheeled for each individual and combined scenarios, providing a calculation of the potential benefit, according to grain prices and yields.
Ms Isbister said the CTF Calculator was designed to help farmers and consultants to make strategic investments in new machinery that delivered financial rewards.
“The model can help to develop a plan to gradually adopt CTF and to implement it in line with a farm machinery replacement schedule,” she said.
“One interesting example compared the use of tracks to dual wheels on a header found only a 0.1 per cent change in the wheel track percentage, which demonstrated changing over wasn’t worth the investment.”
To achieve a fully matched system, growers aim to operate machinery in multiples of a base width ideally the header, such as using a 12m header, with a 36m sprayer and a 12m seeder.
Ms Isbister said while implementing CTF may require changes to machinery for all cropping operations, the cost of changing machinery over to controlled traffic farming was not as expensive as many growers perceived.
“Case studies have shown the average cost of conversion to a ‘fully matched’ CTF system was $50,000, although it can be a bigger commitment for farmers whose current machinery fleet is poorly matched or difficult to modify,” she said.
The calculator will be profiled at the 3rd International Controlled Traffic Farming Conference, which will be held in Ballarat from 12-14 February 2019.
Jodie Thomson/Megan Broad, media liaison
+61 (0)8 9368 3937