Setting up a controlled traffic farming system

The first step in setting up a controlled traffic farming system is to do an inventory of machinery and measure it up to see how it might fit together, CTF Europe’s Tim Chamen says.

It is not absolutely necessary for all the machinery to have the same wheel base or implement width, he explains.

For example, an AdTrac system, where there are two track widths and two implement base widths, can still cut traffic down to 30-40% of the field. That figure can be improved over time as machinery is replaced, by moving to one implement base width (or multiples of), such as an 8m combine cut and drill width and a 24m sprayer. This coupled with two overlapping track widths (OutTrac system) can reduce traffic to about 20% of the field.

Controlled Traffic Farming 5

The ultimate system (ComTrac) would have one implement base width with one wheel track width. That’s what Lee Farm is using in its trial both the tractor and combine have a 3m wheel base. It is not without its problems, Mr Coggins admits. Three-metre wheelbases produce road use problems, while the lack of a high-clearance sprayer on the farm at that width has prevented oilseed rape desiccation. “It’s probably not a practical system for most farmers.”

But the project is already providing information on the potential benefits from using the technique, Mr Chamen points out. “We’re seeing four times greater infiltration of water on non-trafficked areas, which has to reduce the potential for erosion.” It also means more water should be available in times of drought. Penetrometer comparison tests have also illustrated how less “tight” non-trafficked soils are, he adds.

The pair are reticent about making any yield claims as yet. “Without replicated trials it is not easy to make a direct comparison, but there certainly hasn’t been any yield penalty from controlled traffic,” Mr Coggins concludes.

Lee Farm machinery

  • John Deere 8430 tractor (3m wheel base)
  • John Dale 8m drill (3m wheel base)
  • Berthould mounted sprayer
  • Twin-disc fertiliser spreader
  • John Deere rotary combine (9m (30ft) header)

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