The need for higher yields, quicker crop production, and the increase in labour costs have led farms to use larger and heavier machines than ever. This is having a negative impact on soil. The good news is that a more efficient alternative could be on the horizon.
Problems caused by soil compaction
When heavy machines roll over soil, it is compacted. Global Food Security claims that compacted soil can reduce yield by up to 12 per cent, severely reducing profit. Furthermore, it can have a detrimental effect on the environment as compact soil cannot absorb water, resulting in lost nutrients and minerals. It also causes fertiliser to run off and pollute streams and pools nearby, affecting local wildlife.
To make matters worse, replacing the useless soil necessitates the use of even heavier vehicles to dig down into compacted soil, compressing it further and causing the cycle to be repeated.
Great leaps have been made with the development of techniques that allow a machine to be driven in a way that reduces the tracks made in a field. This is called Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF). GPS has made this more efficient; it is now possible to set up vehicles to make as few tracks as possible. In many ways, CTF is the perfect solution to this problem. It has been found to reduce tracks to just 15 per cent of an agricultural area. Australia has taken to CTF well and is even investing AUS$3m into CTF research, while only 1.5 per cent of farming areas in the UK use CTF.
Why aren’t more countries adopting this method? One of the main reasons it is not more widely used is its perceived complications and expense. Installing a CTF system may involve a considerable initial outlay as new machinery can be costly. However, the increased yield can quickly make up for this expense while saving money and lowering running costs considerably in the future. This means the extra money can be spent on Cheap Shelving Units Ireland products sourced from businesses like Rackzone to store all the extra produce made as rotating the dates is important for fresh food. Nevertheless, food machinery auctioneers expect to see an increase in interest in vehicles more suited to CTF in the future.
While things seem to be moving in the right direction where soil consumption is concerned, it is taking place far too slowly for many people who claim that in the future, we’ll wish we had acted sooner.