Controlled traffic farming / inter-row sowing with stubble retained farming systems.
Case study: Roger Todd, Condobolin, NSW – Inter-row sowing in a stubble retained farming system.
Enterprises: Controlled traffic farming on 2500 ha plus mixed farming with agistment stock on 5000 ha.
Soil type and pH: red loam with a pH of 5 – 5.5.
Roger (a finalist in the 2015 Grain Grower of the Year awards) runs a controlled traffic farming system with a six year rotation of long fallow, canola, wheat, chickpeas and barley. He tends to stick with this rotation regardless of what markets are doing, only replacing (mainly chickpeas and canola) with long fallow in extremely dry years.
He sows at twelve inch (300 mm) spacing on a three metre wheelbase with a twelve metre disc seeder and a thirty six metre boom.
Moisture retention is the driving force behind most of Roger’s cropping decisions.
Issues and observations of controlled traffic farming:
Roger was motivated to move into controlled traffic farming in 2003. His red soils compact quite easily and the combination of no-till and tram tracks have allowed for improved water infiltration into his farming country, particularly during summer storm events.
He renovates his tram tracks about every six years and uses that as a chance to incorporate lime (after chickpeas and before wheat) and gypsum (before canola).
The tram tracks have given Roger noticeable fuel savings. On established tram lines he’s using 2.5 l/ha of diesel, compared to 5 – 5.5 l/ha on the mixed farming (traditional fallow) country.
Another benefit of CTF is that in wet seasons he can get on country quicker than conventional farming with only some areas of headlands becoming boggy.
Issues and observations of inter-row sowing:
Inter-row sowing wasn’t a driving force to Roger adopting controlled traffic farming although he finds it a convenient tool. He finds his stubble loads are usually not excessive in the majority of years and his disc seeder can handle it well. Hair-pinning has not been an issue when stubble is knocked down.
One thing Roger has noticed is that where stubble has been knocked down as opposed to standing, he is seeing more vigour in germinating crops, except for chickpeas. He puts this down to less shading and is contemplating knocking more stubble down in coming years to open the canopy. He would prefer that to burning as although a late, cool burn is an option he’s aware of nutrients that are being lost in doing so.