Tramlines can do a lot for you

TRAMLINEFARMING and deep ripping can lift gross margins in sandplain country by up to $40 per hectare per year over four years, based on research from WA trials.

GRDC-suppotted trials at Mingenew and M nlIewa found that tramlines produced annual. gains of this order on a sandplain rotation following deep ripping, in seasons typical of 1997-2000. This production rise equates to a potential $25-$30 million per year if the research, led by Paul Blackwell of the WA Department of Agriculture, is extended across the WA wheatbelt's sandy soils.

The reseatch trials developed a database of crop responses to tramline systems versus conventional cropping. Tramline farming better preserves deep-ripping benefits and extends thetirne between cultivations - saving growers the $30/ha slug to repeat the deep-ripping process after just two years.

Deep ripping compacted soils to 300 mm was found to raise yields by over 30 per cent on most sands, reduce wheat screenings, and lift canola oil content. Other incidental advantages of tramline farming include a 3-10 per cent saving in seed, fertiliser and spray costs from reduced overlapping when following established, measnred tramlines and fuel cost savings from easier motoring across flattened terrain. The system also fits well with inter-row cropping.

While past cost-benefit evaluations of tramline farming have been based upon rule-of- thumb calculations and theoretical predictions, the latest tramline project ran farmscale trials to try to supply growers with an accurate indication of what tram line farming could do for them. Judging by the results to date, tramline farming can do quite a lot.

Program 4 Contact: Dr Paul Blackwell 08 9956 8537