Caption: The recent ‘Soils Masterclass’ at Scaddan, where CTF trial results were discussed, along with a range of other research. The event was initiated by the GRDC’s RCSN in the Esperance port zone.
New research investigating controlled traffic farming (CTF) systems has revealed significant yield gains of up to 46 per cent in areas where there is no history of subsoil compaction.
The results were achieved during a 2014 project initiated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) in the Esperance port zone.
Findings from the project, coordinated by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA), were presented at a recent ‘Soils Masterclass’ workshop, hosted by the Campbell family in Scaddan, Western Australia.
The workshop was organised by the GRDC’s Esperance RCSN in conjunction with SEPWA and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA).
The large-scale CTF trials explored the effects of compaction through deep ripping and re-compacting paddocks, with the aim of encouraging more farmers in the Esperance port zone to start implementing CTF.
SEPWA senior project officer Nigel Metz said the results from the three different rainfall trial sites reinforced the value of CTF systems.
“All CTF sites had significant yield increases - of between 18-46 per cent – compared with not only the simulated trafficked zone, but the paddock areas immediately adjacent to them,” Mr Metz said.
“Furthermore, grain filling was much better in terms of lower screenings in the non-compacted areas.
“This clearly indicates that sub soil compaction and subsequent loss in crop yield is a real factor of modern mechanised grain farming across multiple soil types and rainfall zones.”
Mr Metz stressed that despite the benefits of CTF, improvements were unlikely to happen overnight.
“While the yield benefits of the zero traffic areas in the trial are obvious, it needs to be remembered that the majority of paddocks have been trafficked with machinery at some stage of their history,” he said.
“As a result, the possible yield increases of the zero traffic zones are not necessarily obtainable in the near future.”
Mr Metz said before growers consider trying to ameliorate soil damage caused by previous traffic, they must first confine machine tyres to tram lines to limit further damage.
CTF was just one of many items on the agenda at the Soils Masterclass workshop which gave WA growers an opportunity to talk to some of Australia’s leading specialists in the field.
The event enabled growers to spend time in small group discussions - or ‘Masterclasses’ - with acknowledged soils experts, before visiting soil pits and composting sites to see a range of other tactics being used by the Campbell family to help improve fertility on their property.
Across WA, a range of soil constraints – including subsoil acidity, compaction, water repellence, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, sodicity, waterlogging and alkalinity and transient salinity – cost millions of dollars in lost production each year.
To help meet this challenge, the GRDC is investing with other research agencies into a $33 million, five-year Soil Constraints – West initiative to develop and deliver practical management solutions.
Julianne Hill, GRDC RCSN coordinator
0447 261 607
Nigel Metz, SEPWA
0447 631 115
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code