Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


'Aussie rules': Five key lessons

Posted: January 30, 2013

Perspectives on progress with controlled traffic farming

Peter Gamache, Project Leader at Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta

Peter Gamache and the Canadian team that visited Australia to learn about controlled traffic farming (CTF) came away with a number of key insights. Here are a few leading examples:

1. Don't need to jump in overnight. "You can progress over time as you begin to match up equipment widths, axel widths, those kinds of things," says Gamache. "It can be a gradual process."

2. Cost is not prohibitive. CTF equipment set ups don't have to be expensive. Many of the Australian farms invested less than $15,000 to get into CTF and some took a few years while cash flow allowed.

3. Don't have to be perfect. CTF can be adopted across the spectrum from a little bit to a lot, says Gamache. "There are always purists who think you have to be really anal about it and do things to the full extent. But it's really up to the individual - it's okay to move forward at whatever pace and whatever degree you want to."

4. Lots of options. CTF opens up a world of precision application opportunities. Examples range from inter-row seeding and inter-row spraying herbicides, to on-row spraying of fungicides and insecticides, in-crop fertilizer banding, and strip-till banding fertilizer in the fall.

5. Fuel savings a big deal. CTF can reduce fuel use by 30 to 50 percent or more, with big savings during harvest, says Gamache. "Consider the difference when you drive a loaded combine weighing over 60,000 lbs. across a soft field and then drive it across a pair of hard packed tram lines. The difference in fuel use is pretty significant."

Crop spraying: Is faster really better?

Posted: January 30, 2013

Balance is the key, says Dr. Tom Wolf

While there is unquestioned new capacity to crop spray faster, there are implications to factors such as higher speeds and higher boom heights that farmers would do well to think through, says Dr. Tom Wolf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon. "There are forces working in the industry that naturally push for getting things done faster and there's certainly a demand for that. "But, is it the best way to spray? I'd like to evaluate that."

It may be an inconvenient truth, says Wolf, but slow and steady may actually be what wins the race if farmers focus on what produces the most optimal spraying results.

"Farmers ask me, what's the best practice? The bottom line is we need more research. But with my best assessment based on what we know, I would say probably a slow travel speed and probably a low boom height. Obviously, that's not what's happening today."

That's not to say faster and higher is always the wrong way to go, he says. "But we should be making sure we understand the implications. If that's what we want to do, we need to find ways to do it while keeping the right balance."