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Adoption of CTF could double in the next five years in Western Australia

Machinery dealers and manufacturers have reported an increase in demand for deep ripping equipment.
Photo: Giacomo Betti

Key points

  • A recent survey has shown adoption of CTF could double in the next five years in Western Australia.
  • Growers increasingly recognise that soil compaction is impacting on yields and are now feeling more empowered to do something about it.

A recent survey found that adoption of controlled-traffic farming (CTF) in Western Australia could double over the next five years, with the majority of growers now motivated to tackle soil compaction.

The survey by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) also found that the adoption of soil compaction management practices by growers increased substantially between 2016 and 2019.

The intention of 24 per cent of growers to adopt CTF in the next five years could increase uptake to nearly 50 per cent of growers. These figures demonstrate the enthusiasm to adopt compaction management techniques and adjust farming systems to reduce risk and improve long-term profitability and sustainability.

DPIRD conducted the survey to measure the benefit of GRDC's investment in a project aimed at minimising the impact of soil compaction on crop yields (DAW00243).

The initial survey of 80 growers and 40 consultants and agronomists in 2016 aimed to benchmark the level of interest in CTF and managing soil compaction. The final survey in 2019 contacted 96 growers and 40 consultants and agronomists.

Recognising soil compaction

Over the three years, the number of growers practicing deep ripping increased from 34 per cent to 49 per cent and those practicing CTF from 21 per cent to 25 per cent.

While the number of growers who had identified soil compaction on their farm was fairly stable (75 per cent in 2019), there was increasing recognition that soil compaction was limiting yields - 70 per cent in 2019, compared to 61 per cent in the 2016 benchmark.

There was a small increase in knowledge and awareness of soil compaction since the benchmarking survey in 2016, with 56 per cent indicating that they had good to very good knowledge and skills, compared to the benchmark of 50 per cent.

Adoption of deep ripping was highest in the Geraldton (61 per cent) and Kwinana East (50 per cent) port zones. These areas also had the highest level of participation in project activities.

The top three reasons given by growers for not adopting soil compaction management were:

  • 'soil compaction is not a priority for my farm';
  • 'financial constraints to investing in suitable machinery'; and
  • 'machinery poorly matched'.

Similar reasons were cited by agronomists.

Growers and agronomists increasingly recognise that soil compaction is impacting on yields and are now feeling more empowered to do something about it. - DPIRD development officer Bindi Isbister

The most dramatic change was in growers' attitudes to managing compaction. In 2016, 56 growers said that the reason for not managing compaction was that 'they had decided to do nothing'. In 2019, this number had dropped to just two.

Agronomists on board

The increase in adoption of soil compaction management is supported by industry, with an increase in the number of agronomists recommending soil compaction management practices, particularly CTF (now 89 per cent compared to 78 per cent in 2016).

Recommendations by agronomists are made according to soil type and climate.

All agronomists recommend deep ripping in sandy soils and shallower ripping was recommended for loam soils, although ripping test strips were frequently mentioned.

The most common recommendations in clay soils were to apply gypsum if sodic and the adoption of CTF.

A recent survey has shown adoption of CTF could double in the next five years in Western Australia. - DPIRD development officer Bindi Isbister

Changing sales

In 2019, 23 agricultural machinery dealers and manufacturers were surveyed to determine the change in demand for soil compaction management machinery.

The majority of machinery dealers and manufacturers reported a small to moderate increase in demand for deep-ripping equipment (67 per cent) and for CTF machinery (78 per cent) over the past five years. This has motivated 80 per cent of dealers to ensure they have machinery options available to manage soil compaction.

DPIRD would like to thank all the growers, consultant agronomists and machinery companies who participated in the two surveys.

GRDC Research Code DAW00243

More information: Bindi Isbister, 0436 682 497, bindi.isbister@dpird.wa.gov.au

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