With mounting evidence linking non-compacted soils with improved yields, more growers are considering moving to a controlled-traffic farming system, particularly after investing in soil amelioration strategies.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in Western Australia has recently updated its online tool to assist growers plan for the implementation of a controlled-traffic system.
The CTF Calculator is an update of the original 'Trackman' wheel track calculator, developed in 1998 by Peter Walsh and Troy Jensen, of Queensland Department of Primary Industries, and Geoff Newall, of NCEA, and made available by Precision Agriculture Pty Ltd.
The new and improved CTF Calculator now gives growers the opportunity to plot wheel tracks in different colours and change tractor and wheel specifications.
Like the original Trackman program, growers can also estimate the percentage of the paddock that is wheeled. But the tool can now also assess the financial benefits of reducing this wheeled percentage across the paddocks.
DPIRD development officer Bindi Isbister says the improved online tool gives more than just statistics - allowing growers to see the wheel tracks for individual machines visually on the screen.
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Ms Isbister believes the CTF Calculator is an excellent tool for growers considering their options when establishing a controlled-traffic farming system.
"The CTF Calculator will allow you to play with numerous variables to work out which system will be the most beneficial for your business," she says.
"Given that many growers are now investing in soil amelioration strategies, such as deep ripping, to specifically alleviate hard pan compaction at depth, it is all the more important to protect this investment by reducing wheel tracks across paddocks."
She says lining up machinery to match operating width and wheel track spacings is often a difficult task and making incorrect machinery purchases can be costly.
The calculator tool can be used to evaluate how changing machinery specifications could impact the percent of the paddock wheeled.
"For example, it may be that investing $100,000 to change a header from wheels to tracks only changes the wheeling percentage by 0.1%, so is therefore not worthwhile," Ms Isbister says.
The other major benefit of this program, she says, is that is demonstrates to growers that benefits can be achieved by making small incremental changes.
"You don't need to be 100 per cent CTF to get the benefits from reduce wheel tracks - this program illustrates that with even small changes there will be improved outcomes," she says.
The CTF Calculator can be found at: www.ctfcalculator.org
More information: Bindi Isbister, DPIRD,firstname.lastname@example.org
GRDC Research Code: DAW00243