Who are we?
Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta (CTFA) is a farmer-led initiative aimed at evaluating, through on-farm research, 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.
CTFA has received funding for 2014-2017 for a project called “Controlled traffic farming and on-farm research with controlled traffic and random farming systems”. This is a joint project with the University of Alberta. Funding has been provided through the Agriculture Funding Consortium with the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund. as the lead funder. The Alberta Canola Producers Commission provided funding for 2014-15.
Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, University of Alberta, Beyond Agronomy, AgViser Crop Management, Paradigm Precision, Demeter Solutions and Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta. There are eight cooperating farmers.
(provide funding and in-kind support) * indicates a Founding Partner
Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund*, Alberta Canola Producers Commission*, Alberta Barley Commission*, Alberta Pulse Growers*, Alberta Wheat Commision*, Farmers Edge*, Beyond Agronomy*, Point Forward Solutions*, AgViser Crop Management and Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta*.
What are we doing?
We have investigated CTF for three years in Alberta and have received additional funding for 2014-2017 to continue and expand the on-farm research. The overall objectives of CTFA are to: enable farmers to make informed choices on the adoption of controlled traffic farming systems, improve farmers’ ability to do on-farm research and extend the findings to farmers and agronomists.
The objectives of the new project are to:
1. Identify soil and landscapes where controlled traffic farming is agronomically feasible and economically viable.
2. Examine whether CTF can enhance nutrient and water use-efficiencies of annual crops such as canola, wheat, sunflowers, corn and peas through increasing plant available water and root growth responses.
3. Develop efficient methods to take raw data from yield monitors, clean it up and statistically analyze and interpret the data.
4. Create the methodology and programming to economically analyze on-farm research data.
5. Examine the effect of CTF vs random traffic on root biomass, soil macroporosity and soil hydraulic conductivity (U of A project).
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