Pearl D 1 , Cann M 2 and Peries 3
1,2 Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), Swan Hill
3 Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), Swan Hill
Peer review: David Rees Research Scientist, DEDJTR, Parkville
Throughout history many farm practices have emphasised productivity at the expense of natural resource condition. These farming practices have impacted on the sub soils of these systems, creating an environment that is impoverished, preventing root access and proliferation, carbon capture and access to deeper soil moisture.
In the age of large and heavy machinery on farms, the use of this machinery on paddocks in random trafficking over the soil, can result in chronic soil compaction affecting crop growth, increased nutrient run-off and soil erosion, reduced carbon cycling and soil biological function, and low water and nutrient use efficiency.
Why was the project done?
While Control Traffic Farming (CTF) is well established in Qld and NSW, uptake across Victoria is poor, particularly in the medium to low rainfall zones. CTF, a system by which all heavy farming vehicles continually travel on the same wheel line, offers the opportunity for reduced compaction, improved carbon capture and water infiltration and an increase in production.
This project was established to assist the Growers of the Low to Medium rainfall zones in improving their knowledge of the opportunities that CTF brings by giving them access to demonstration sites and data from within their local region.
With the assistance of local CTF farmers, paired paddocks sites were established at 8 locations across western Victoria. Paired paddocks are where two paddocks adjacent to each other but being managed under different practices are sampled and monitored. In this case the differences in the paddocks were that one was under a CTF direct drill cropping system and the other is district practice. The sites in the Victorian Mallee where at Mittyack, Nowie and Roseberry.
• rainfall at all sites in 2014 and 2015 was below the Mean for the sites
• In 93 % of cases, Non-trafficked CTF areas had greater biomass than trafficked CTF areas.
• In 100% of cases, Non-trafficked CTF areas had greater yields than trafficked CTF areas.
• In 73 % of cases, including farmer yield history data, when the paired paddocks were growing the same type of crop in the same year, the CTF paddock out yielded the Non CTF Paddock.
• While bulk density figures showed no significant differences, except under CTF wheel tracks, penetrometer readings indicated that roots were less restricted in the soils in the CTF paddocks, other than on the wheel tracks.