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Controlled traffic farming (CTF) is the start of a journey – a journey to reduce production costs and increase yields while improving soil health and delivering positively to the environment. It works on the principle that “if it’s not broken, you don’t need to fix it”. Much of the time and energy we put into soils is to undo the compaction damage we have caused by driving machines all over them.
This video clip shows how severe the effects can be. As machines are getting heavier and heavier, this damage is extending deeper and deeper into the soil profile.
CTF turns our present production systems on their head by leaving 70 – 80% of fields permanently without compaction, rather than the other way around. CTF aims to confine soil compaction to the least possible area of permanent traffic lanes. It sounds simple but because our machines have never been designed to do this, it needs a lot of thought and good planning to get it right. Look at this simple flash animation (English)(Deutsch) (Français) to see how CTF brings order to chaos!
Reducing costs (time, fuel & machinery) – and increasing crop yields. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not; some farmers in Australia have cut their machinery costs by as much as 75% while their crop yields have risen. Similarly in the UK, the Colworth project is showing that lowered inputs combined with CTF is resulting in healthier looking crops and soils.
CTF is a whole farm approach to the separation of crops and wheels; it is a system that avoids the extensive soil damage and costs imposed by normal methods. Controlled traffic is not rocket science – it simply involves confining all field vehicles to the least possible area of permanent traffic lanes.
Appropriate agronomy and management is used to maximise the potential of both the cropped and wheeled areas for their specific purposes. In practise it means the repeated use of the same wheel tracks for every operation, and although it is ideal for all machines to have the same wheel track (the distance between the left and right wheel centres) and for all implements to have a particular span (base module) or whole number mulitiple of it, this is not essential. Percentage area wheeled can be reduced to 30 – 40% even with two different track and implement widths. The illustration below shows an optimised CTF set up with planter, harvester and chemical applicator.
This post is also available in: Danish