CTF in Essex and Suffolk

Big results of CTF in Essex, 23 and 24 March 2016

Organized by CTF-Europe, Tim and Chris Chamen, we had a very instructive workshop including some excursions about CTF. Familiar with the Dutch situation it was interesting to see the big effects of CTF on farms in Essex and Suffolk. Some of my findings, questions and nearly conclusions about the CTF practice in Essex I like to share are written below. With special thanks to our hosts and hostesses on the farms.

Paul van Ham,

Multi Tool Trac,

Wageningen, The Netherlands.

E.W. Davies Farms

At E.W. Davies Farms they are working 1300 ha arable land (cereals and rape seed) that is ploughed and grown with artificial fertilizer for at least for 80 years. Since some years a 12 meter CTF system is used with fixed tracks based on the track width of both the combine harvester and the tractors used. All cultivating is done with a CaseIH Quad 600 (23 tonnes on rubber tracks), which is found to be too large since working with CTF. Not only less power is needed, but also less labour time is used on the farm, resulting in less tractors available. Besides CTF also No-Tillage elements are used in cultivation. Soil structure improved “a 1000 times”. One of the questions is the management of the wheel ways: to be loosened or not, and how? Problems listed are: slugs, flea beetles and black grass.

Soil structure as seen in the field on this clay soil (containing fire stones) is good in between the tracks, with now and then a rain worm. It looks as if the soils have low organic matter.

Some remarks: Machinery is dedicated to cultivate big area in less hours with a CTF approach. Almost no manure or compost is used in the past, but that is being added now as well as grass within the rotation. Biocides are commonly used. Big fields with no divers borders, sprayed with herbicides. Remarkable that the listed plagues are all biological.

Kind of summary

Shimpling Park Farm

At Shimpling Park Farm they are working 1237 ha arable land (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, quinoa, beans and grass/clover layland) plough based and a herd of some 500 sheep (manure). Since 1999 converted to organic farming. Since 2015 year a 8.8 meter CTF system is used with fixed tracks based on the track width of the combine harvester. All axes are to be build on 2.25 meter next year. On fields with CTF less power is needed. The system also needed less labour time. Tractors can be less heavy. The problem listed was the big difference in workability on a non-CTF field (before the grass/clover layland) compared with a CTF field (after grass/clover).

Soil structure as seen in the field on this clay soil (containing fire stones) is good in between the tracks, with more rain worms. Probably because of the grass/clover layland and use of manure it looks as if the soils has more organic matter.

Some remarks: Rotation is broader and diverse because of the grass/clover. Machinery is being adapted to CTF in steps. Sheep manure is used on fields. Fields are more surrounded by borders.

Kind of summary:

Diverse speakers

  • Jeremy Durrant: Maybe we have to be proud of the wheel ways with poor crop where all compaction gathers. That shows us how good the land in between the tracks is!
  • Philip Wright: what is the best combination of “metal & root”; what can be done better by tine or disc, and what can be done better by roots?
  • Different speakers: with CTF we can use smaller tractors again.
  • The tracked area on the different farms seemed to follow the equipment present by accident. Mentioned in the audience are percentages of 19%, 22%, 23%, 44%. This is partly due to the difficulty to harmonize on 1 track width. Is this only due to the machine costs and low economic yields?
  • The outcome of 1 ha of cereals is approx. 200 Pounds a year. Price for a tonne of grain is 100 Pounds while the total costs are 80 pound. In total 9-11 tonnes multiplied by 20 Pounds.
  • The head of the combine harvester sets the layout of the CTF plan. The width of the sprayer is then a multiple of this. The width of the harvester is filled in with the tracks of the tractors. Sometimes tracks comes together.
  • Headlands in Essex takes more land due to the (longer) pulled equipment.
  • The common track width on Dutch arable farms with CTF is 3.15 or 3.20 meter. This fits very well with equipment available. In this system all tracks are a multiple of the 3.15/3.20 meter. It results in a tracked area of only 12%, which is much lower that these found in Essex.
  • In Dutch studies the profit of CTF is higher in organic systems than in conventional farming systems. Probably due to the fact that organic farmers rely more on their soil than conventional ones.

Photos

Combine Harvester sets the tracks layout at E.W. Davies Farms.

Special headboard for easily feeding 12 meter of crop into the combine

CaseIH Squad 600 for cultivation with …

…this cultivator, used for aprox. 10 cm depth (part of the minimum tillage system)

This cultivator is for sale: it only gave heavy lumps after subsoiling the wheelways.

Rapeseed coming out of winter poorly.

Tracks (combine harvester) and wheelways (tractors in between) on Shimpling Park Farm.

Tim Chamen in his element, dialoguing with practical farmers about the many advantages of CTF.

Sowing in almost bare soil. This field was not yet farmed with CTF and at the end of the rotation before the grass/clover had to came in.

The promise of CTF: happy earthworms with al lot of holes to cultivate the soil for us.