Improving grass silage production with Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF): agronomics, system design and economics

PR Hargreaves*, S Peets, WCT Chamen, DR White, PA Misiewicz, RJ Godwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


Grassland silage management is generally semi-organised with no conscious attempt to re-use wheel ways as with arable fields. The total number of machine passes can be 15 or more with normal traffic (NT) systems resulting in potentially large areas of a field suffering from direct damage to the crop and soil. Literature suggests there can be grass dry matter yield reductions of 5 to 74% under NT through compaction and sward damage, with a mean of 13% in the UK. Commercially available grass forage equipment with widths of 3 to 12 m set up for controlled traffic farming (CTF) could reduce trafficked areas (which is typically 90% to 80% for NT) to 40% to 13% for CTF. This study compared grass dry matter yield between CTF and NT for a three-cut silage system based on a 9 m working width in a permanent silage field in the southwest of Scotland, UK in 2015. Results showed a 13.5% (0.80 t ha−1) increase in yield for CTF for the 2nd and 3rd cuts combined. The CTF trafficked area covered was 57% less than the NT system (30.4% compared to 87.4%) over the three silage cuts. An economic analysis based on a 13% increase in dry matter yield (for 2- and 3-cut systems) and a reduction in trafficked area from 80% (for NT) to between 45% and 15% (for CTF), increased the yield by between 0.53 t ha−1 and 1.36 t ha−1 for 2- and 3-cut systems, respectively with an equivalent grass value of between £38 ha−1 and £98 ha−1. Introducing CTF for a multi-cut grass silage system is cost-effective by increasing yields due to a reduction in compaction and sward damage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-277
Number of pages18
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jan 2019
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Apr 2019


  • Grassland
  • Controlled traffic
  • Economics
  • Silage


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