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An investigation into the effect of traffic and tillage on soil properties and crop yields

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  131597846,  2013 Kansas City, Missouri, July 21 - July 24, 2013. (doi: @2013
Authors:   Emily K Smith, Paula A Misiewicz, Keith Chaney, David R White, Richard J Godwin
Keywords:   Controlled traffic farming low ground pressure traffic random traffic soil compaction traffic management tillage sustainability.

Abstract. Agricultural production systems are increasingly characterised by extensive in-field trafficking of larger and heavier field machinery. The random nature of trafficking, covering 80-90% of the field area, that is characteristic of commercial practice, inevitably leads to negative impacts on soil, water and crop characteristics because of degraded soil structures, impeded root development, yield losses, water infiltration and pollution. Remedial action requires energy, time and cost. The future development of a sustainable agricultural sector needs to balance an increase in production whilst protecting the environment. Emerging technologies and engineering solutions have stimulated a recent shift towards reduced tillage methods and coupled with the development of traffic management systems, aided by Precision Agriculture (PA), aim to reduce the severity of compaction on cropped areas whilst improving efficiency and sustainability. Low Ground Pressure (LGP) systems can facilitate random trafficking and are often used to access fields during wet conditions whilst minimising the negative effects of field traffic. Alternatively, Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) which is used predominantly in Australia confines field traffic to permanent wheel-ways and significantly reduces the total area trafficked to circa. 30% depending on working widths used.

A multidisciplinary long-term project established at Harper Adams University (UK) in October 2011 is investigating the interaction between traffic and tillage on soil, crop and energy responses in a randomised and replicated study to determine the effects of Random Traffic Farming (RTF), Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) and Low Ground Pressure (LGP) systems with Deep, Shallow and Zero Tillage. The aim of this study is to develop an integrated mechanisation system to optimise soil and water resources, crop growth, yields, system performance and economics in commercial agricultural practice.

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