Soil & Water Management Centre

Developing & improving your soils

Is there any interaction between engineered drainage systems and controlled traffic?

  • 21 Jul 2016 12:41
    Message # 4147700
    Tim Chamen (Administrator)

    The winter of 2015-16 in the UK and possibly also northern Europe was exceptionally wet, pushing field drainage systems to the limit. We received communications from two CTF farms that considered CTF was exacerbating the problem. Discussion with one of these led to acceptance that the issue was actually not CTF, it was the manner in which traffic had been managed along a field boundary.

    Problems on the second farm were more extensive and a visit was made to try and determine the cause. In two of the instances, both associated with headland tramlines, a blocked main drain was identified. This may or may not have been caused by traffic from the body of the field crossing it and a factor would be the increased weight of machines over the past few years. Associated with this problem were old drains whose depth would not be considered adequate in the present day.

    The final issue was also associated with a headland tramline but in this instance the whole field sloped from the boundary towards the tramline and beyond, as can be seen from the photo below.

    This headland tramline remained wet throughout much of the winter, but due to the slope, the catchment area for it was only the headland. Was drainage downhill to the left being compromised by deep compaction under the tramline?

    In theory therefore, only rain falling on the headland could contribute to the problem because the field to the left of the tramline (in photo above) fell away from it. The conclusion was that subsurface flow was being compromised by the depth of compaction under the tramline. However, this would have been the case whether the field was in controlled traffic or not, so here again, the problem is primarily the weight of the machines involved.

    What are your views or experiences with controlled traffic and drainage systems? CTF is all about confining both heavy and light machines to a small proportion of any field, but do we need to review drainage management and particularly the placement and spacing of mole drains?

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