AT a recent Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) workshop I dropped into last month at Mingenew the audience in the paddock was challenged by a machinery salesman.
He pointed out that the next generation of self-propelled (SP) sprayers were coming off the production line with even wider wheel-track spacing for improved stability on hillsides.
The new SP track width is more like four metres instead of 3 metres, which is currently more common for cropping gear in CTF systems.
Compromise is the key when in CTF transition, balancing economics with practicality and convenience to avoid as much borrowing as possible if the farm gear is a long way from ideal.
Many growers have done that and the compromise CTF system of widths or wheel track spacing/tyre sizes can be quite interesting compared to a standard 3m tramline layout with all tyres fitting 600-800 millimetre wide wheels or tracks, especially when the header has to be on duals for load capacity of the tyres.
The danger is that with a wider range of wheel tracks in a compromise system, all the soil between 1m and 4.5m of the tramline centre can become effectively a compacted road and that somewhat defeats the original purpose of the system.
Too much compact soil in a CTF system can result in too much poor crop and poor quality grain going into the header front, unless small sections of the knife are covered and the poor crop is not picked up.
However a bit more planning of the individual wheel track alignments may well allow many growers getting new SP sprayers to make a better fit than just taking what is provided and adding two new compacted tramlines at the 4m track on each spray run.
A three-wheel tramline would put all the heavy wheels or tracks (individual wheel or track load greater than 1t) on one common tramline; e.g. either the northern or southern tramline of an east-west orientated CTF system.
A new 4m track SP sprayer would be on the same common tramline for one set of wheels, but the two wheels 4m away would use a new tramline on firm soil set up at the deep ripping stage.
So instead of two 3m track tramlines and two 4m track tramlines for each spraying run there would be only 3 tramlines and ideally 25 per cent less compacted soil or poor crop in the system.
This innovation may be a bit of a challenge to set up at the deep ripping stage, to avoid the ripper crabbing, but there are ripping set-ups that should be able to avoid that.
A further challenge may be setting up a separate wayline for the SP in each paddock, but modern guidance systems seem to get smarter every season.
The biggest challenge of a three tramline system, even if the third tramline is unripped, is that the high traffic tramline may become deeper than the others, which may pose a problem for not only the sprayer, but also possibly the header (front height being uneven) and the seeder.
This would depend on the seeders’ capacity for depth control and how easy it is to level the header front as the header, sprayer and seeder tramline will be a more deeply rutted tramline.
Ourselves and other CTF enthusiasts, Wayne Parker and Josh Pearce, hope you all had a sensible Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days and were able to plan wisely for a great transition to future CTF if you are not already there.
We hope this cool and wet season and the encouraging prices allow many of you to take an easier step into your own CTF set-up than many previous seasons.