Tramline washouts spark regular renovation strategy for CTF grower

Renovating to prevent tramline erosion is now a key priority for CTF grower

Agronomy
To reduce the risk of erosion, Western Australian grower Lloyd Burrell now renovates his wheel tracks every three years or so - depending on how long it takes the soil to compact. PHOTO Natalie Lee

To reduce the risk of erosion, Western Australian grower Lloyd Burrell now renovates his wheel tracks every three years or so - depending on how long it takes the soil to compact. PHOTO Natalie Lee

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After watching his tramlines wash away, Lloyd Burrell knew something had to change.

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Grower snapshot, Lloyd and Cheryl Burrell

  • Location: Mount Madden, Western Australia
  • Size: 5000 hectares (arable)
  • Annual average rainfall: 400 millimetres
  • Soil types: variable, from deep white sands to heavy grey clays
  • Soil pH: 5.0 to 6.5
  • Enterprise: continuous cropping
  • Crops: canola or a pulse followed by wheat and barley
  • CTF system: 12-metre multiples on 3m wheel-track centres

When Lloyd Burrell watched heavy rain flooding down his controlled-traffic tramlines three years ago, he knew something had to change.

Lloyd and his wife Cheryl had seen erosion before on their Mount Madden property in Western Australia's eastern wheatbelt, but the tramlines had made it much worse.

"In February 2017, we had 300 millimetres of rain in just four days," Lloyd says.

"Before the rain, the wheel tracks were about 10 to 15 centimetres deep. Afterwards the erosion was 30 to 60cm deep."

I don't think we hear enough about how important it is to level-off the tramlines. - Western Australian controlled-traffic grower Lloyd Burrell

While he can't do much to prevent erosion in the gullies, the tramlines made it worse, particularly on the sandplain country or in paddocks with only relatively light stubble cover from field peas or canola. Those with the bulkier wheat and barley stubble were a bit more protected.

All up, 31 of his 36 paddocks had severe erosion.

Repairing the damage

In 2017 Lloyd Burrell had to undertake extensive remediation after flooding rain in February caused severe tramline erosion in 31 of his 36 paddocks. PHOTO Cheryl Burrell

In 2017 Lloyd Burrell had to undertake extensive remediation after flooding rain in February caused severe tramline erosion in 31 of his 36 paddocks. PHOTO Cheryl Burrell

Lloyd did everything he could to repair the damage before seeding, with three or four men working full-time for more than two months - about 1500 hours in total.

He purchased a carry grader and Speedtiller® to assist with the remediation work.

Before 2017, Lloyd had only renovated once, but he is now a strong advocate for regular renovation to fill in the ruts and keep the tramlines more level with the rest of the paddock.

"I don't think we hear enough about how important it is to level-off the tramlines," he says.

These days he usually renovates every three years, depending on how long it takes the soil to compact. This is usually after a canola or pulse crop when there is less stubble to deal with.

Not all smooth sailing

"One of our challenges is that our soils are very compactable," Lloyd says.

"Each time we renovate, we're pulling a bit more soil from either side of the tramlines so we're starting to get a bit of a hollow either side of them."

To overcome this, Lloyd has started cultivating at a 45-degree angle as part of the renovation process.

"The deep ripping that we're doing on our non-wetting sands to improve yields will also help," he says.

"Our other challenge is maintaining the success of the controlled-traffic system in heavy stubble.

"We like to sow our pulse crops as close to the wheat or barley stubble as we can because when we have a dry start the only moisture is in the stubble lines.

"Most of the time, the system works. But after a good year, the combination of heavy stubble and heavy soils makes it difficult to put the seed where we want it.

"It doesn't help that we're in a fairly moist environment and often get a heavy dew at harvest," Lloyd says.

"That makes it hard for the choppers to handle a heavy stubble and they don't distribute the trash evenly."

We typically renovate our tramlines every three years. - Western Australian controlled-traffic grower Lloyd Burrell

While others in the area who are not full-CTF sow at a 45-degree angle to overcome establishment issues, Lloyd is still trialling some modifications to the choppers and the tyne bar within the full-CTF model.

"We still have a few tricks up our sleeve," he says.

See also:

More information: Lloyd Burrell, 0429 838 902, burrellnominees@bigpond.com

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