Innovations in Controlled Traffic Farming: Building Resilient, Sustainable and Smart Cropping Systems
This project will demonstrate a comprehensive integrated agronomic approach to addressing two critical barriers to no-till and reduced till organic and conventional grain production systems: compaction and weed control. Both organic and conventional farmers working to reduce tillage for improved soil health are constantly battling both compaction due to heavy equipment and weed pressure. Farmers have traditionally used tillage to address these concerns. However, many farmers recognize that tillage negatively impacts soil health and are committed to farming methods that eliminate or minimize soil disturbance.
This project will demonstrate controlled traffic farming in a no-till/cover cropping system on a working conventional and organic grain and soybean farm with two innovations: tramlining and chaff lining. Controlled traffic farming limits equipment wheel pressure to established lanes within a field, with the goal of eliminating equipment traffic entirely on at least 70% of the field area.
Tramlining makes controlled traffic farming easier to implement as it establishes visible lanes between crop rows for all heavy equipment operators to follow.
Chaff lining is a weed control method that collects weed seeds and chaff from harvesting and deposits them in rows, rather than distributing them across the field broadly. This approach concentrates weed seeds - in this case in the tramlines - thereby reducing weed pressure across the crop production areas of the field. Deposited and concentrated in the tramlines, wheel pressure and increased competition minimize weed emergence. Continued placement of chaff in the tramlines will significantly reduce weed pressure and the emergence of herbicide resistant weeds over time.
In combination with controlled traffic farming, tramlining and chaff lining have widespread potential for adoption and will help farmers improve profits, soil health, and water quality.
This combination of innovative practices could be a game changer for grain producers in Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S.
— Dr. Michael Flessner, Associate Professor and Extension Weed Science Specialist, Virginia Tech
Acres managed with controlled traffic farming
In addition to demonstrating the performance of this conservation system, Shepherd Grain Farms LLC intends to lay the foundation for research opportunities led by Virginia Tech’s Drs. David Holshouser, Wade Thomason, Michael Flessner and Brian Badgley, who are seeking additional funding for comprehensive farm-scale research on soil compaction and weed control benefits of CTF systems.
Results from this project and planned research will be shared with Virginia farmers and agronomy professionals through field day events, presentations at farmer, agronomy and conservation professional meetings, Extension publications and articles in farmer/agronomy/conservation professional publication and newsletters. Additionally, Sustainable Chesapeake will work with NRCS and Virginia Tech to host a “Farmer Think Tank” consisting of some of Virginia’s most innovative grain and soybean farmers who are committed to sharing information about this project and other innovations in soil health with their peers through on-farm research, field days, presentations and one-on-one mentoring.