Controlled traffic farming has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits for farmers that will ultimately boost productivity and improve environmental outcomes.
The practice is designed to reduce soil compaction caused by miss-matched farm machinery wheel spacings and maintain a healthier soil structure through minimal tillage. Less tillage also reduces the potential for erosion.
While the many benefits – such as fuel savings, less wheel damage to stools, reduced tillage and more accurate placement of planting material, fertiliser and herbicides – are clear, the move takes time and patience as many farmers have discovered.
Mackay cane farmer Tony Bugeja is happy to talk about the benefits of zonal tillage and how using GPS technology on his farm is saving him time and money in an episode of the CANEGROWERS' Virtual Bus Tour series.
John Turner from Mackay Area Productivity Services also explains how this farming method of guiding the wheel tracks of farm machinery helps to reduce soil compaction, and later at harvest, reduce damage to the cane plant. Zonal tillage is integral to the first seven modules of Smartcane BMP. Watch more.
In keeping with best practice benchmarks established through Smartcane BMP, Cairns cane grower Paul Gregory is progressively laser levelling his blocks and converting the farm to a GPS-mapped controlled traffic system. Paul is confident the system will offer numerous benefits, not just in terms of limiting erosion but in boosting yield via better application and retention of nutrient and ameliorants. Read more.
Paul also features in the Virtual Bus Tour series, showing how he is converting his farm to a 1.85m GPS-mapped controlled traffic system, working with the geography of the landscape to create firm traffic ways and soft growing zones. Paul says his decision was based on improving productivity and profitability, as well as the associated environmental benefits to his farm and the surrounding landscape. Watch more.
For Maryborough cane grower Ashley Petersen, soil health has become something of a passion. So committed is Ashley to improving the quality of his soil, that he has spent 20 years trialling different farming systems and adopting many of the industry's evolving best practices. In some cases he has led the way with innovations of his own.
Ashley employs several methods to ensure that he has the best soil health possible, including controlled traffic and minimum till. The system is still a work in progress, as Ashley continues to trial new practices and technologies, while benchmarking his success against industry best practice. But after 20 years of trial and error, he’s satisfied they have the most efficient, productive and sustainable farming system the family has ever had. Read more.
When Jeff Atkinson moved his 530-hectare sugarcane, soybean and pineapple farm to a fully controlled traffic system in 2003, he hoped it would help cut costs and improve productivity. Fifteen years later, Jeff believes it’s one of the best on-farm decisions he’s ever made and is encouraging other growers to do the same. Over the past three decade, Jeff has embraced many practice changes, however the most important in terms of improving the economics, efficiency and productivity of his business has been the move to a 2-metre controlled traffic system.
Controlled traffic is not a new innovation and the multiple benefits associated with such a system are widely accepted by today’s farmers. From the improvements in soil health and yield, to the significant savings that growers can achieve in time and money, there’s a lot to be said for adopting a controlled traffic system.
Despite this, many cane growers are still farming without the aid of GPS guidance – something Jeff believes needs to change. “The benefits are well proven and we’ve seen them ourselves. If you don’t compact the soil, your soil health will improve and with that comes a number of other benefits,” Jeff said. Read more.