Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta

CTFA Newsletter Jan 12, 2017



CTF Alberta 2016 Field Results
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January 12, 2017 Vol #4, Issue #1
Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta News
Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta completed its 6th year of field trials in 2016. This is the last year of our current project funded by The Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) and Alberta Canola Producers Commission.
CTFA Conference - March 1, 2017
We will be highlighting the results of our project on March 1, 2017 at the Executive Royal Hotel in Leduc, Alberta. More details to follow in a separate newsletter and on our website.
2016 Field Research Highlights
2016 started out fairly dry, then it started to rain and ended in one of the most difficult harvests I can remember - rain and snow were the norm. We did succeed in getting yield results from six of the eight plots. As in past years we are not seeing many significant yield trends. The Trochu Canola plot was significantly better for CTF for the second year running. The Rolling Hills corn plot was significantly better for the random traffic. Significance was measured at p=10%.
We are not sure why we are not seeing yield increases given that we are seeing soil improvements in the CTF compared to the random traffic in soil properties such as soil bulk density, macropore space and infiltration. Dr. Jeff Tullberg, one of the pioneers of CTF research suggests two reasons:
“We have spent 50 years optimising the system for degraded soil, so perhaps it's unsurprising that other factors intrude when we improve soil condition.”
“In our traditional side-by-side agronomic comparisons everything happens at the same time on all treatments. That is okay if we are looking for a positive response to the absence of compaction, but not when the optimum timing of operations is often different.”
Perhaps we will see responses in the near future if the soil is able to repair itself. Deep ripping in some situations and forages in rotation might speed the process.
Click here for the 2016 yield graph
2016 Infiltration Results
Our infiltration tests are a simple field procedure where we add one inch of water to an 8 inch ring and time how long it takes to infiltrate. We have two sets of five rings for each treatment. One of the 8 sites was significantly (p=10%) faster for CTF. There were no significant differences at the other sites. There does seem, over the six years of testing, to be a trend for CTF to infiltrate water faster.
Click here for the 2016 infiltration graph
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe does plant emergence and weed counts for us just prior to the first in-crop spraying in the spring. There are no trends or changes in communities showing so far. In 2016 Cleavers was significantly higher in the CTF at one site, volunteer wheat was higher in the CTF at another site and Shepherd’s Purse was higher in the random traffic at a third site. Plant emergence showed no significant differences.
Click here for the 2016 plant stand graph
2016 Economic Highlights

We are still in the process of analysing the 2016 economic data.
Click here to see the Gross Margins CTF vs RT from 2011 - 2015
University of Alberta Soil Properties Research
Kris Guenette, U of A Masters student, is nearly finished his project on CTF. He has used our plots for his data. We will post his finding to our website.
The goals of the study are to: 
•    Evaluate how soil properties change in response to the presence of compaction. 
•    Determine how controlled traffic farming (CTF) affects soil quality in Alberta. 
•    Quantify how soil quality changes as a function of landscape and the management system.

Key findings to date for soil physical properties are:
•    Decrease in bulk density in un-trafficked areas.
•    Increase in macro and meso-porosity in un-trafficked areas.
•    Increase in S-index soil quality in un-trafficked areas.
•    Soil quality changes differ between soil subgroups.

Key findings to date for hydraulic properties of soil are:
•    Hydraulic conductivity highly variable.
•    Increase in saturated water content in un-trafficked areas.
•    Un-trafficked soils have higher available water holding capacity.
Click here for a graph illustrating the soil macropore differences at two sites

Click here to go to our Links Page for resources related to controlled traffic.
Penn State University has some excellent compaction bulletins such as “Effects of Soil Compaction” and “Avoiding Soil Compaction” Click here to go to their soil compaction page.

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