Frequently Asked Questions

Who should be interested in CTF?

CTF is appropriate for anyone growing crops, whether these are grass, roots, energy, legumes or cereals, on any scale and whether with manual, semi- or highly-mechanised systems. It is a system that cuts costs at their source; it creates opportunities and avoids compromises associated with wheels, rutting and poor cloddy seedbeds. It should be the goal of all producers.

Will I still be able to plough?

Yes, but ploughing removes some of the benefits and the hope is that it won't be necessary. Obviously ploughing will loosen all of the wheelways and in many cases displace the compacted soil laterally. To minimise the damage caused by ploughing, the tractor hauling the plough should work on the land, not in the furrow, and the direction of ploughing should be at right angles to the wheelways. The latter may require the use of a tracked rather than a wheeled vehicle, but the advantage is that the wheelways can probably be re-established on top of already compacted soil which might provide enough guidance to make markers unnecessary.

Zero plough

Ploughing is easier on non-trafficked soil and as demonstrated on this 80% clay, the resultant tilth is far closer to being a seedbed than it would be with conventional practice. You will need to plan the ploughing operation more carefully though if you are to retain more of the advantages (Photo: Silsoe Research Institute)

Won't I lose yield from the wheelways?

Within reason, the yield lost from a given width of wheelway in a closely spaced crop is equivalent to about half the area lost. This is because there is less competition for light and nutrients adjacent to the wheelway, and the crop compensates accordingly. Overall, any loss from this area is generally more than compensated for by the increase in yield from the relatively much larger non-wheeled area. For wider spaced crops there may be no impact at all from the wheelways in terms of crop yield. If "fuzzy" tramlines are used, the overall increase in yield from using CTF will be greater than if none of the wheelways are sown. In reality, the incompatibility of wheel gauges on the equipment that might be found on the average farm will mean that the wheelways will be wider than is ideal. This may not lead to a loss in yield, but initial gains will be lower than may be achieved in the longer term when improved compatibility has been achieved.

Will it cost me anything?

As with most benefits, there is some price to pay, and with CTF this is largely associated with the need for an improved and more sophisticated level of management. In addition, some modification of machines might be necessary. This generally means altering wheel gauges, for example, adding markers, or perhaps extending unloading augers on grain harvesters (see example below). Proper long-term planning will ensure that these relatively small costs are kept to a minimum, and that machinery replacement is in line with the new needs of the farming system.

Grain harvester

This is an example of Rob Taylor's dry land farming machinery set up in Queensland. All vehicles are on a 3 m track gauge and the implements are matched to the harvester cutting width at just over 9 m. The extra reach required to unload the harvester has been achieved by a combination of elevator extension and the provision of a sub-hopper and elevator on the grain cart.