Sep 1 2015


Soil compaction as it relates to farming has been a well-documented and researched issue for over 30 years.  We know that a compacted soil is not a healthy soil; it harbors negative traits like reduced moisture holding potential, poor nutrient uptake, and poor soil structure[1].  So, what does soil compaction have to do with Controlled Traffic Farming?  As it so happens, soil compaction has everything to do with the concept of a Controlled Traffic Farm.

Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) was formed as a sort of management tool to help reduce the amount of compaction on fields.  Agricultural soils endure a lot of abuse from heavy agricultural equipment such as drills, sprayers, cultivators, and combine harvesters, that make multiple passes through a season of seeding and harvest.  CTF aims to reduce the amount of compacted field area to just 10-20%, by creating a permanent traffic lane for wheel tracks for all heavy Ag equipment to follow[2].  The current method that most farms use is “Random Traffic Farming”, where Ag Equipment has no designated wheel tracks or traffic path to follow so the field is driven on at random, which will result in approximately 80% of the field area becoming compacted.  In addition, research by Controlled Traffic Farming of Alberta suggests that 80% of the damage from compaction happens in the first pass, making it that much more important that soil compaction is managed from the very start of the seeding season[3].

Watch the short video below to see a great example of the differences between Random and Controlled Traffic Farming:


So, what are the 7 big benefits of keeping your wheels within the tracks with CTF?

1.) 80-90% reduction in overall field area compacted when compared to Random Traffic Farming[4].

2.) Better soil structure with more air pore space, means the soil will have less bulk density when you pull your openers through it, so this means less wear to your openers!

3.) Reduced bulk density of the soil also means less pull when dragging the openers through the ground resulting in a reduction of fuel consumption.

4.) The return of healthier non-compacted soil means increased soil moisture holding capacity, more nutrient holding capacity, and an increase in helpful soil microbes and microorganisms.

5.) Healthy, happy crops with a strong root network development.

6.) Drainage throughout your fields will be improved.

7.) 15% increase in yield potential in an average season, or up to 50% increase in drought conditions as compared to Random Traffic Farming according to Meristem Land and Science[5].

If you are interested in reading further, take a look at some of the continued research on Controlled Traffic Farming taking place in Alberta, Canada:


Written and Published by Jessica Kohls, BSc, PgCE – Dutch Biologist