Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) is a simple concept – it’s about reducing soil compaction by confining the use of farm machinery to dedicated lanes within a field.
In practice, it is a little more complex, often requiring investment in new machines, as well as in Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to allow equipment to be driven accurately over the same bit of land year in and year out.
The potential benefits of CTF are attractive, with the promise that improved soil health, because of reduced compaction and better water infiltration, will result in increased yields. This is probably the driving factor for the majority of UK growers wishing to adopt a CTF system.
However, another potential benefit over conventional farming practice is the opportunity to make savings on seed, fertiliser, sprays and diesel by making field operations more efficient.
So what are the challenges?
One of the biggest will be cost – although the cost of changing system can vary widely depending on where the starting point is and where the end goal lies.
In order, for all operations to be carried out from the same lane, then the width of any cultivation equipment, drills, sprayers and combines will all need to be of the same multiple in order to link up.
This means a farmer who doesn’t currently use GPS and runs a system which uses small and irregular machinery widths across the board will require heavy investment. The GPS alone could cost £30,000, when starting from scratch.
On the other hand, for a grower with GPS already enabled across all machines and with only some bits of equipment needing to be upgraded, the change can be relatively quick and inexpensive.
Strutt & Parker’s team has produced a useful guidance note which gives more detail about:
- The different width combinations of machines needed to make a CTF system work
- The likely costs of upgrading machinery
- Wider considerations for the adoption of CTF
- Potential returns from the system in terms of yield and soil health
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