Growers making the change to Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) shouldn’t feel they need to jump straight away to a ‘Rolls Royce’ system; a ‘Commodore’ can also make a massive difference to their bottom line.
The ‘perfect’ scenario for minimising the impact of soil compaction is described as a fully matched 3:1 ratio CTF system where the harvester and seeder are one-third the width of the boomspray – resulting in 10-12 per cent paddock wheel track coverage per year.
But many growers are significantly reducing wheel tracking to 20 per cent per year or less using ‘compromised’ CTF systems – typically involving a 12m (40 foot) harvester, an 18m (60 foot) seeder and a 36m (120 foot) boomspray.
Many growers without CTF systems taking part in recent Western Australian soil compaction workshops discovered they currently have wheel tracking of more than 50 per cent.
But they could fairly painlessly get that figure down to 20 per cent – simply by adjusting their steering and making minor modifications such as adjusting axle widths or making minor changes to existing equipment.
Most growers attending the workshops – conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) - were convinced of the benefits of CTF but didn’t know where to start in implementing it.
I think it helps to make a plan, and that a good first step of the plan is to start with a ‘compromised system’. Step one of the plan is to reduce wheel tracking with little or no expense at all.
Growers can then either stay with this second-tier system – which still delivers significant benefits – or gradually progress towards a fully matched system.
The second option involves choosing operating widths suitable for their farm business over a long period of time, typically as existing machinery becomes due for replacement.
It’s important to remember that even relatively small percentage changes in key areas can equate to big percentage changes in overall profitability.
This was starkly illustrated in recent years by a GRDC-supported Planfarm study which analysed the top performing growers in WA’s eastern grainbelt, and compared them with average performers in the Planfarm Bankwest Benchmarks for the region.
The study showed that an extra 0.1t/ha in wheat yields, combined with 5 per cent lower costs across the farm business and a small increase in grain prices, resulted in additional profitability of $143,000 per year.
Implementing even a ‘compromised’ CTF system may be a way to have a big impact on farm profitability through a small increase in yield and a small decrease in cost.
The higher yields are the result not only of less compaction but reduced damage to crop plants.
Lower costs come from reduced fuel usage and less need for costly practices such as regular deep ripping – to help ameliorate compaction.
Why not start with a reliable second-hand Holden Commodore now (ie. compromised CTF system) and buy the Rolls Royce later with the extra profit made from higher yield at a lower cost.
Caption: Peter Newman.
Natalie Lee, Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827