What Next?

Starting out

If you have read all the information provided on the website (including one or two "case studies"), you should be well on the way to understanding what is involved. If you want to assess the system's immediate potential on your farm, the first step is to draw up an inventory of the machinery that you would plan to use.

This involves, as outlined in the case studies, measuring the width of your different machines and the wheel track gauges of the wheeled equipment (see separate section below). This will give you an idea of the compatibility of the different elements of the system and identify what modifications, if any, would be necessary or worth considering.

Alternatively contact us and we will arrange a response to your enquiry. In addition, we can put you in touch with practising CTF growers or farmers.

How is CTF introduced?

CTF can be introduced at any pace and in any manner according to the user's preference. Initially it requires a change in attitude towards the farming operation, and this in turn allows opportunities to be explored. In simple terms, the idea is to create a machinery system with a common wheel track or gauge where the wheels or tracks always run in the same places in the field. This is like permanently siting all your tramlines but with the difference that CTF applies to all operations from crop to crop and from season to season.

Things to consider at the start

The challenges can be divided into three principal areas:

  1. Designing the machinery system around existing mechanisation
  2. Introducing and maintaining the soil-based wheelways, particularly in areas of high rainfall
  3. If mouldboard ploughing is the principal annual cultivation, the challenge is in making the switch to a non-inversion or zero tillage system.

Designing the Machinery System

This is largely a case by case assessment and design. There are however some guiding principles which will form the basis of an initial feasibility study. In general, the wheel track gauge selected will be based on the machine with the widest non-adjustable track gauge. Within a cereals rotation, this is generally the combine harvester.

The width of the cutting table may also form the basis of the module width of implements, because the aim will be to match all the working widths of the equipment. However, it is possible to have a module width less than the width of the cutting table, for example a 9m cutting table could operate with an 8m base module of cultivators and drill for example.

This is not ideal and in the long term the machinery replacement plan would aim to match or have everything on a multiple of the base module width.

Get to know your own and any proposed new machines

You may think you know all there is to know about your own machines, but when you are planning for CTF, you need to know their intimate details - you will of course be working to centimetres, so centimetres really matter. We have made a number of forms available to Members to make this information gathering exercise much easier. It will also be something you need to fill in for any new machines you are proposing to buy and the forms will help you ask the right questions. Members can access the forms from our Forms and Calculators page.

Introducing and maintaining the soil-based wheelways

A great deal of practical experience has been gained in Australia on permanent wheelways, but in their climate the soil conditions are predominantly dry, but with periods when it can get very wet. In other parts of the world, and especially in temperate regions, soil conditions may be predominantly wet, but with periods when they are very dry.

We therefore have fundamentally different starting conditions depending upon local climate.

Making the transition from ploughing to non-inversion or zero tillage

Crucial to the success and sustainability of CTF is its ability to deal with residues, diseases and weeds when ploughing is absent. To a large extent crop residues are only a problem if they are unevenly spread and/or if the following implements are unable to deal with them. They are rarely a crop problem other than their interaction with some diseases.

The challenge must therefore be addressed initially by ensuring that whatever residues are left on the field are spread evenly, and if possible reduced to short lengths (less than 100 mm). This helps to ensure that they pass easily between the soil engaging parts of cultivation implements, which should themselves have as much clearance as possible between adjacent elements. An alternative is to use an implement which is less sensitive to residues, such as rolling cultivators, discs or widely staggered tines.

Remember though that the soil condition you are dealing with now is far more friable and less aggressive but more closely spaced elements may be needed. The ideal could be something like a spiked rotor that is braked slightly to give slip between the soil and spikes, but which allows surface residues to clear as it rotates. For sowing cereals, a similar principle might be adopted or even the same cultivator used with seed being delivered in front of the rotor.

Again, remember that if things have been done correctly, a friable and moist tilth should be available, giving this semi-broadcasting method a high chance of success. In many instances a single sowing pass may be all that is needed.