Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta
NEW: CTFA Project Report March 2013
NEW: 2012 CTF Plot Reports
NEW: 2012 CTF Economic Report
NEW: Steve Larocque's CTF Nuffield Report
Controlled Traffic Farming Links: click here
Controlled Traffic Farming Discussion Forum/ Message Board: click here
The Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta Message Board is a forum to share your questions and experiences about controlled traffic, guidance, inter-row seeding, equipment, agronomics and other issues and observations. Please register to participate.
Who are we?
Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta (CTFA) is a farmer-led initiative aimed at evaluating controlled traffic farming systems in Alberta. The group is interested in taking no-till and precision agriculture to the next level.
Our vision is to help farmers successfully adopt controlled traffic farming systems that improve soils, increase production per unit of input, decrease cost per unit of production and increase net returns.
Our mission is to evaluate and assess controlled traffic farming systems in Alberta conditions and provide farmers and agronomists with high quality, unbiased information so that they can make informed decisions about adopting controlled traffic farming.
Three years of funding has received from the federal Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). The Agriculture and Food Council administers the funds in Alberta on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
(provide funding and in-kind support) * indicates a Founding Partner
Gold: Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund*, Alberta Canola Producers Commission*, Alberta Barley Commission*, Farmers Edge*, Beyond Agronomy* and Point Forward Solutions*
Silver: Alberta Pulse Growers*
Bronze: Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission*
The Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta* is the managing partner
What are we doing?
CTFA is working with co-operators to conduct on-farm, large-scale applied research projects. Controlled traffic fields will be compared to the farmers’ normal random traffic systems. All of the sites will be mapped for soils, texture, topography, drainage and fertility. Key measurements that will be recorded are: soil water, rainfall, crop emergence, weeds, disease, yield, protein, oil, water use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency, fuel use and infiltration. We plan to continue the comparison on the same fields for up to five years. An economic analysis will also be conducted.
The 2011 sites are near Dapp, Lacombe, Trochu and Morrin, Alberta. A field day will be held at each of the sites. Check our events page for more information.
What is Controlled Traffic Farming?
Controlled traffic farming is a system that tries to separate the area that machinery travels on from the area where the crop grows. Permanent traffic lanes where all machinery travels each year are established. A farmer needs to build a machinery system where as much as possible all machinery uses a similar wheel gauge (distance between wheels across the machine). One of the most common systems used is a 30 foot seeder, 30 foot combine/header and 90 foot sprayer, all running on a similar wheel gauge, for example 10 feet.
Why controlled traffic?
CTF is an attempt to address the detrimental effects of compaction caused by the current tools we use to travel our fields. A one pass direct seeding system covers about 50% of the field each year. It is also estimated that 80% of the damage caused by compaction is created on the first pass over the field.
The move to larger and heavier equipment and random traffic in most cropping systems has increased compaction. Compaction may be a largely unrecognized problem in many Alberta fields, ‘hidden’ by random traffic.
Benefits of CTF
CTF has the potential to:
- Improve soil structure – reduce overall compaction Increase water infiltration
- Increase soil water storage Increase moisture use efficiencies
- Improve nutrient use efficiencies
- Reduce pesticide costs
- Reduce fuel consumption
- Improve trafficability of equipment
- Lower machinery investment.
By combining no-till and CTF into one system farmers can increase their net returns. Reducing and limiting compaction in the field leads to better soil health which leads to many of the benefits listed above.
Improving soil structure and increasing water infiltration leads to better yields, especially in dry years, further enhancing the benefits already gained through low disturbance direct seeding. There is also potential to enhance yields in high moisture years or extremes of rainfall through increased ability of the soil to both store and infiltrate moisture.
RTK GPS guidance is an essential technology for controlled traffic. Adapting our large-scale farming systems to controlled traffic will be a challenge. Matching wheel widths, selecting appropriate tires or tracks and implement widths are all part of designing an effective system that keeps all wheel track traveling on the same lanes.
The combine will likely be the driver in selecting wheel widths, so 120 inch tracks will be common.
Inter row seeding and more precision application of pesticides may be some of the first steps farmers take as they move to a full blown con-trolled traffic system.
What do we want to do?
The objectives of the partners are to:
- Assess the agronomic and economic viability of CTF under a variety of climatic and soil conditions.
- Build a resource base of farmers, agronomists, researchers and industry with CTF expertise to describe and advocate its evaluation and implementation.
- Sixty percent of Alberta’s commercial farmers will be aware of controlled traffic farming by March 2014.
“We are not sure if controlled traffic farming is the next major advancement in cropping in Western Canada. What we do know is that the promise it holds in reducing risk and inputs while maintaining or increasing yield is a goal worth pursuing” Craig Shaw, Lacombe.
Peter Gamache, Project Leader