WISH LIST: matching wheel tracks
GroundCover™ Issue: 43
ADOPTION OF controlled traffic (CT) is being slowed by a mis-match between machinery capability and theoretical gains. Some 200 graingrowers around Australia agreed they would like to see more research on machinery for controlled traffic, raised beds and permanent tramline farming systems.
Late last year a research team, supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC, held meetings in all Australian grain-producing states to identify the machinery barriers to wider adoption of these farming systems.
Project leader and Queensland consultant Wayne Chapman said producers were asked to identify areas where they would like GRDC-supported research. Mr Chapman said early analysis revealed the groups to be fairly uniform in the issues raised:
- machinery standards and incompatibility of different equipment at harvest
- the need for local demonstrations of CT methods, with ongoing monitoring, and integrated extension through field days and manuals
- consultation with manufacturers and government to achieve standardised equipment
- development of a whole-farm, CT extension package, linking economics and machinery research, and
- lower-cost machinery guidance systems. Mr Chapman said the groups involved in the assessment had considerable experience with CT, which led to agreement on the research priorities.
"They had experience of problem areas in controlled traffic, like narrow fronts on harvesters compared to the wheel spacing of seeders, difficulties unloading harvesters on the move while keeping to existing wheel tracks and the variable wheel spacing of front and rear axles on current tractor models.
"Although it is possible to buy tractors that match harvester wheel spacing at 3. 05 metres, there is a significant premium. As well, the range is limited to either smaller tracked machines or equal-sized four-wheel-drive tractors.
"All meetings identified the need for either a warranted conversion, or a factory option, of a 3.05 m front wheel assist axle. "
A follow-up national survey is underway. In the meantime farmers would continue with the accepted approach of "start simple and give it a go", with farmers around Australia coming up with innovative ways of adapting existing and new machinery to fit controlled-traffic systems.