Controlled traffic controls cost for Cairns grower

The Queensland sugarcane industry has a rich history of innovation with growers quickly adopting new practices or technologies which offer the potential to bring down costs, improve productivity and protect the environment.

Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) is just one example of a farming practice that is growing in popularity.

CTF is a farming system that involves matching row widths to all farm machinery wheel or track spacings. This allows for separate traffic and crop zones which means less compaction of the soil around the crop.  

The farming system has been said to reduce time and cost inputs because farming operations are more efficient. However, variations between different soil types, crop classes and cane varieties have meant this has been difficult to determine in local conditions.  

Using mill data from the 2018 season, a recent case study collaboration between MSF Sugar and CANEGROWERS Cairns Region has found that the farming method can maintain a grower’s tonnage while reducing their cost inputs.

The case study compared the productivity outcomes (tonnage, time and cost savings) of a Cairns Region grower who had recently adopted the farming system to the grower’s zone average within the region.

“The grower had recently transitioned to Controlled Traffic and was keen to see how their farming operation compared to their local region,” said MSF Sugar’s Senior Agronomist, Michael Porta.

“We compared their productivity outcomes across the main soil types, cane varieties and crop classes in their productivity zone.

“Across the varied range of crop class, variety and soil types, the case study showed that Controlled Traffic Farming maintained the grower’s tonnage while reducing their input costs.

“This lines up with research results which stimulated interest in and adoption of this farming system. Further proof of success with CTF is that many growers are well into their second crop cycle are able to expand their production area with the same machinery resources and staff.”     

While the grower is still in the early days of using the farming system, the initial results look promising. They’re projected to experience 340 days of time efficiency gains and a total cost saving of almost $180,000 across their whole farming operation following the completion of a full crop cycle (plant to fifth ratoon).

“We are expecting the grower will experience an equal or greater yield to the zone average while applying fewer cost inputs throughout the season,” said Mr Porta.

While the case study was conducted in the Cairns Region, Mr Porta thinks the results could be generalised to many growers.  

“We know that every farm is different - but given a breakdown by common soil types, crop classes and cane varieties, the pattern of results is likely to hold up for many growers in the region,” he said.

The document has been made publicly available and is free to download here.

If you’re interested in seeing how your farm compares to the zone average, or how you could benefit from moving to Controlled Traffic Farming, you can speak to staff at MSF Sugar on 4043 3356.

The case study document was created by Project Cane Changer in collaboration with CANEGROWERS Cairns Region and MSF Sugar. The Cane Changer project is funded by the partnership between the Australian
Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.