Cropping farmers adopt farming systems that suit their environmental, economic and personal circumstances. No matter what those circumstances may be, they can be improved by CTF, which has been adopted by many farmers in Australia and around the world in the grain, horticulture, forage, sugar and cotton industries.
The foundation of CTF is the use of compacted, permanent wheel tracks to support all load bearing machinery wheels. The aim is to minimise the area of permanent wheel tracks. Some machinery configurations in some industries can achieve a wheel track area as low as 10%. The remainder of the soil never carries a load bearing wheel, and so stays in the best possible condition for maximum crop performance. In simple terms, “Plants grow better in soft soil, while wheels work better on roads”.
Optimum crop production is achieved in soils that allow lots of beneficial biological activity – e.g. micro-organisms, earthworms and crop root growth. These processes rely on “aerobic” conditions – i.e. soil with lot of air-filled soil pores. Squashing the air out of the soil with load bearing wheels is harmful to those processes and therefore limits plant growth.
While CTF is built on beneficial changes in the soil, the potential of CTF is much more than that. Improving the soil and increasing crop yield is just the start. The process of controlling traffic, and the precision required to achieve that, opens the door to many ‘system’ benefits. These include, but are not limited to:
- Improved timeliness leading to greater cropping frequency and reliability
- More efficient use of nutrients and water
- Reduced erosion
- Lower fuel and pesticide use
- Reduced capital costs for machinery
- The establishment of a spatial framework for crop and paddock management
- Less time farming, more time doing other things
Farmers adopting CTF find it helps them optimise the use of many other technologies and practices used on their farm. These production, economic and systems benefits are all discussed in materials available on the ACTFA website, including in CTF Conference papers written by farmers describing their own experiences.