Read time: 3 minutes

Surprise CTF findings

New survey-based research indicates that adoption of controlled traffic farming (CTF) in Australian grain operations is limited by low understanding of its basic principles and how they work as part of an integrated system.

This was the finding of a CTF survey in 2011 and 2012, which was the first of its kind in Australia. The findings were released in September. Of the 222 grain growers surveyed in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, just 33 were matching the widths of their machinery to three-metre permanent wheel tracks for all their operations with harvesters, tractors, sprayers and spreaders.

CTF Solutions chief executive officer Dr Don Yule says permanent wheel tracks are a cornerstone of CTF, so use of this practice by only 15 per cent of growers shows that CTF adoption is lower than previously thought.

National, more general CTF surveys by the GRDC in 2011 and the Australia Bureau of Statistics in 2010 revealed respectively that 19 per cent and 15 per cent of growers had implemented CTF on their properties.

“But permanent wheel tracks are basic to all CTF systems, so their limited use highlights an actual low overall adoption of CTF,” Dr Yule says.

“About 34 per cent of growers reported that they used permanent wheel tracks, but many of these were not matching the widths of all their machinery because they used 2m wheel tracks, in addition to 3m wheel tracks.

“One set of 3m wheel tracks is a fundamental requirement in CTF operations because farm machinery and implements need to be matched to the harvester, which runs on 3m wheel spacings.”

Of the growers who were using permanent wheel tracks, the study indicated that for tractors, 49 per cent were using 2m wheel tracks and 40 per cent used 3m wheel tracks. Meanwhile, for sprayers, 44 per cent of growers surveyed used 2m wheel tracks and 49 per cent used 3m wheel tracks.

Dr Yule says this low rate of permanent wheel track use has implications for the adoption of other CTF principles.

Apart from restricting the load bearing of farm machinery, permanent wheel tracks also provide the framework for coordinating other CTF practices, such as paddock layout, zero-till and inter-row sowing.

p05_130701_cc_Don-Yule01 jpg

For example, good layout designed around one set of 3m wheel tracks can restrict soil compaction to less than 15 per cent of the total paddock area and improve machinery efficiency, potentially reducing fuel use by up to 50 per cent.

In addition to looking at adoption levels, the research also identified key barriers to the uptake of CTF principles.

Dr Yule says a lack of understanding of CTF as a holistic system combining five core principles was the main overall barrier to on-farm adoption.

These CTF principles, which function cooperatively, include:

  • one set of 3m permanent wheel tracks to separate machinery traffic from crop areas;
  • whole-farm and paddock layout incorporating permanent wheel tracks to maximise operational and machinery efficiency, plus help manage soil erosion and waterlogging;
  • use of real-time kinematic (RTK) global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) with two-centimetre accuracy to guide machinery on permanent wheel tracks;
  • precision farming practices, such as inter-row planting and shielded spraying; and
  • optimised stubble cover as part of zero-till operations.

“It’s not only farmers who have limited understanding of CTF practices and how they work together; it’s the agronomists and machinery and GPS sellers too,” Dr Yule says. “We’ve got a long way to go, which is a challenge.”

Other major challenges to CTF adoption highlighted by the research were limited access to information and low recognition of the potential for increased farm business profitability.

It also revealed that 22 per cent of growers were not using permanent wheel tracks due to the shape of their paddocks, trees or rocks; and 16 per cent said the cost of implementing CTF was a barrier to adoption.

The surveys were conducted as part of a Spatial Information Applications in Rural Australia (SIARA) project led by the CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) in partnership with CTF Solutions, the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, NSW Land and Property Information and the Fitzroy Basin Association.

Dr Yule says the barriers identified are expected to guide future stages of the SIARA project, which aims to lift the national rate of CTF adoption to 40 per cent by 2020.

“This would see about 17,000 farmers using permanent wheel tracks and RTK GNSS to grow crops across 20 million hectares,” Dr Yule says.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of GRDC Ground Cover. You can access the GRDC Controlled Traffic Farming Fact Sheet here.

Related Articles

View all
Article
News

Never cut the herbicide application rate

Scientific studies have demonstrated that resistance can rapidly evolve in weeds subjected to low doses of herbicide. Some weeds can develop resistance within a few generations. Full rates when mixing herbicides too! When mixing herbicides it is important that each product is still applied at the full label rate to ensure high mortality. Applying different chemicals in one mix can provide an additive advantage. It is important to understand the mode of action of each herbicide on the plant when preparing a herbicide mix. This is just as important for pre-emergent grass weed mixes as it is for post-emergent mixes aimed at broadleaf weed control. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. Surrounding weed seeds with a combination of pre-emergent herbicides with different modes of action can give a high level of control and help extend the useful life of all the chemicals used. The high level of control must be supported with additional control measures for all survivors. All products with different modes of action must be applied at full label rates for this to be an effective strategy.   Mixing two chemicals with the same mode of action can achieve some additional efficacy, however, the mix should deliver the combined full rate to ensure a lethal dose. The amount of stubble present and crop safety are all important considerations when mixing chemicals. For example, when using a tank mix of Avadex® and trifluralin to control ryegrass in wheat, the rates used will vary depending on the sowing system and level of stubble retention. Be sure to get good advice. Many herbicides on the market are a combination of two or more modes of action within the one product. These products must be applied at the full label rate to be effective. Having dual action does not negate the need to change herbicide products and rotate modes of action. Repeated use of any single strategy will reduce the effectiveness of that strategy over time.  
Article
News

Spray well – correct nozzles, adjuvants and water rates

Spray application is a technical field and growers need to make sure their equipment and application techniques are spot-on. The GRDC Spray Application GrowNote provides detailed information and about 80 videos to demonstrate key skills. Prevent spray-drift The focus of spraying herbicide needs to be on doing the job right so the weeds receive the correct dose and die, and this includes reducing the air borne fraction to a bare minimum. Bill Gordon’s 10 Tips for Reducing Spray Drift Choose all products in the tank mix carefully. Understand the product mode of action and coverage requirements. Select (and check) the coarsest spray quality that will provide effective control. Expect that surface temperature inversions will form as sunset approaches and will likely persist overnight and even beyond sunrise on many occasions. DO NOT SPRAY. Use weather forecasts to inform your spray decisions. Only start spraying when the sun is about 20 degrees above the horizon and when the wind speed has been above 4–5 km/hr for more than 20–30 minutes, and clearly blowing away from any adjacent sensitive crops or areas. Set the boom height to achieve a double overlap of the spray patterns. Avoid higher spraying speeds. Leave buffers unsprayed if necessary and come back. Continue to monitor conditions, particularly wind speed, at the site during the spray operation High water rates don’t have to slow you down Some growers are concerned that increasing the water rate when applying herbicide will slow down their spray operation and cost them money. However, the biggest financial loss during spraying usually comes from a failed spray job. To keep your spray operation as time efficient as possible when using more effective and reliable application volumes, you can: Use nurse tanks around the farm to reduce the time spent travelling back to a central re-fill point. Use a larger pump, e.g. 2.5 inch, to make re-filling quicker. Pre-mix the batch while the sprayer is operating. Many mixes can be held in the mixing tank for up to 6 hours. However, wettable granules and suspension concentrates will need agitation to keep them in solution. For pre-emergent herbicides in high stubble situations, carrier volume has a large effect on the level of control achieved. Across four trial sites Dr Borger’s research demonstrated that ryegrass control with trifluralin or Sakura® increased from 53% control when the carrier volume was 30 L/ha to 78% control when the carrier volume was increased to 150 L water/ha in high Water quality and mixing order Water quality is often overlooked as a possible contributor to herbicide failure and can lead to confusion over the herbicide resistance status of weeds on a property. Water should be considered as one of the chemicals in any mix, given that water quality varies markedly depending on its source. Getting the mixing order right is essential for effective spray results. Don’t start mixing until the water quality is right Podcast – Mixing herbicides Adjuvants Sometimes adding an adjuvant is beneficial and sometimes it is detrimental; and there is an art to knowing how to best deploy these additives. When weeds are susceptible to the applied herbicides, the effectiveness of adjuvants generally goes un-noticed. Correctly applied adjuvants can reduce the impact of low level herbicide resistance by helping to maximise the amount of herbicide taken up by the plant.
Article
News

Clean borders – avoid evolving resistance on the fence line

About one-quarter of glyphosate-resistant populations within broadacre cropping situations across Australia come from fencelines and other non-cropping areas of the farm. Along paddock borders, where there is no crop competition, weeds can flourish and, if not controlled, set lots of seed. The traditional approach has been to treat these weeds with glyphosate to keep borders clean but after 20-odd years this option is now failing and paddock borders are becoming a significant source of glyphosate-resistant weed seed. Weed researcher Eric Koetz said the limited options for managing weeds along irrigation infrastructure and other non-crop areas is a problem and is putting additional pressure on knock-down herbicides in irrigated systems. In some situations, cultivation can be used to kill the weeds and provide a firebreak, but on light soils this may pose an erosion risk and mowing or slashing may be safer options. Another possible tactic is to continue using herbicides but to ensure that a clean-up operation is carried out before any survivors can set seed. Some growers are choosing to increase the heat on weeds along the borders by planting the crop right to the fence and then baling the outside lap and spraying with a knockdown herbicide to kill any weeds and provide a firebreak. Another good option in some situations is to maintain a healthy border of vegetation using non-invasive grasses. In Queensland, buffel grass is a good example of a grass that can outcompete other weeds while not invading crop lands. If only herbicides are used on fencelines, resistance is inevitable. Surviving weeds on fencelines have no competition and access to plenty of soil moisture, so they set a lot of seed and resistance can easily flow into neighbouring paddocks. Other resources It’s time for a glyphosate intervention Farm hygiene cottons on – Cleave Rogan, St George What’s new in management of herbicide resistant weeds on fencelines? Keeping the farm clean – Graham Clapham, Norwin Don’t jeopardise glyphosate for clean fencelines Keeping fencelines clean Resistance risk to knock-down herbicides on irrigated cotton farms

Subscribe to the WeedSmart Newsletter