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Pros and cons
The potential benefits and drawbacks of controlled-traffic farming (CTF), according to Jacob Bolson, an agricultural engineer who researched CTF as a student, include:
*Improved soil structure
*Increased water infiltration and storage
*Increased nutrient-use and moisture-use efficiencies
*Reduced fuel consumption and pesticide costs
*CTF offers a risk-management bonus, by improving soil-moisture retention and use when it’s dry, and by allowing equipment access in the fields even under very wet conditions. CTF growers say they can access their fields when neighbors are bogged down in mud.
Compacted soil does not hold water; it lacks pores for air, water and plant roots for easy movement in the soil profile. The tracks become compacted and trafficable most of the time.
* The overall soil health in a three-year-old U.S. on-farm CTF system he studied “appeared to be substantially better.”
*On the minus side, CTF requires more intensive management.
*”There is no more ‘just drive into the field,’” Bolsonn says. “Wheel-track locations need to be strictly recorded to derive year-to-year CTF benefits and harvest logistics carefully planned.
*Rutting can also occur over time. “The wheel-track height can drop below the adjacent crop bed. In heavy rains, the height difference can lead to the wheel tracks acting as waterways, leading to erosion problems if they are not oriented properly in a field,” Bolson says.
*The initial cost of CTF can be large, to match implement widths, or to be multiple widths of one another. And, an investment in guidance technology is almost mandatory for effective CTF. RTK guidance technology has been a gateway to making modern-day CTF feasible.
For a video explaining how to affordably plan a CTF system, go to