Seeing first-hand the experiences of growers in other states who have implemented controlled-traffic farming (CTF) principles in their businesses may lift the success of CTF implementation in WA, according to the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA).
WANTFA chair Clint Della Bosca, who farms near Southern Cross, says he continues to see a range of benefits from his own CTF system, including weed and disease control and less-compacted soils.
"I think the evidence is now quite clear that reducing wheel tracks has many benefits, not least of which is increased profitability from crops able to grow in healthy, non-compacted soils," Mr Della Bosca says.
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Mr Della Bosca, and WANTFA vice-chair Trevor Syme, led a group of young growers from across Western Australia in a GRDC-invested tour visiting growers in South Australia and Victoria who have implemented some level of CTF strategies.
The group visited a range of different farming businesses, including those that have been operating under controlled-traffic principles for many years, businesses that are new to CTF systems, and mixed cropping and livestock businesses that are incorporating some level of CTF principles into their mixed enterprises.
I think the evidence is now quite clear that reducing wheel tracks has many benefits, not least of which is increased profitability from crops able to grow in healthy, non-compacted soils
Mr Della Bosca says the aim of the tour was to showcase practical examples of how CTF farming operated in other states.
"Given the rise in investment in soil amelioration, particularly deep ripping, we think it's critical to encourage growers to consider adopting CTF principles," he says.
However, Mr Della Bosca says the practical application of how these systems work can often be hard to understand.
"We wanted these young farmers to see how different systems worked, in different scenarios, so they could take home some strategies to assist them in their own businesses," he says.
Given the rise in investment in soil amelioration, particularly deep ripping, we think it's critical to encourage growers to consider adopting CTF principles
The WA group visited farm businesses in the eastern region of South Australia and the north-eastern areas of Victoria before heading to the 3rd International CTF Conference in Ballarat.
Mr Syme says the group had the opportunity to see how businesses incorporated sheep and other livestock into a CTF system and how the different machinery widths worked in different environments.
"One of the growers we visited near Horsham has been operating under a 30-foot (9-metre) CTF system for many years and it was very easy to see the benefits of his system," Mr Syme says.
"In contrast, we visited a couple of growers who were just starting out on their CTF journey, with livestock thrown into the mix so, again, that showed our WA growers that CTF can be implemented in many different ways."
In WA, inspired by what he saw a neighbour doing - and with GRDC's investment in the Soils Constraints West project and DPIRD support - Corrigin-based no-tillage system grain grower Simon Wallwork bought a mouldboard plough and began a soil amelioration program that is resulting in improved water penetration and better grain yields.
His experiences with tillage and soil amelioration tactics are outlined in a GRDC-produced podcast that can be accessed via the GRDC's YouTube channel.
For those growers confused as how to implement a CTF system into their own businesses, My Syme suggested a least-cost path would be to start by considering the widths of the machinery currently owned.
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach to CTF, and if you are just starting the process, I would be looking at my current machinery widths and making long-term machinery purchase decisions from there," he says.
GRDC Research Code: WAN 1811-001 AWX
More information: WA No-Tillage Farmers Association, (08) 9383 7630