Jeff Tullberg hopes the move to controlled traffic farming in northern NSW and Queensland becomes a nationwide trend.
At the GRDC-supported Society for Engineering Conference in Adelaide, Dr Tullberg, from the University of Queensland, said that in the northern grainbelt, the area sown using controlled traffic had increased from almost zero to more than 500,000 hectares in six years.
"Soil compaction is clearly a problem in Australia's cropping areas and controlled traffic is about the only thing that stands a chance of fixing it."
He said farmers were recognising that wheels on tractors, seeders, spray equipment, harvesters and trucks were compacting soils and limiting yields while increasing costs of production.
"With conventional crop production, wheels are covering just about all of the paddock in a season — with zero-till, the figure is about 50 per cent," he said.
Controlled traffic means permanent wheel tracks used by tractors and other equipment. These tracks took about 15 per cent of the land out of production, yet overall yield increased.
"Controlled traffic is progressing to areas other than Queensland and northern NSW — raised-bed farming in Victoria and WA is an example," he said.
Farmers need to have their machinery set up so that the seeder and spray unit can run on the permanent wheel tracks. But "I don't see the need to do this with headers in the south because the soils are generally very hard at harvest," said Mr Tullberg.
North, South, West