Caring for our soils.

As part of their duty of care for the environment farmers are required to consider the need to maintain soil structure, minimise soil compaction and prevent soil erosion.  Over 80% of over winter losses of soil sediment in cereal crops on moderate slopes are associated with unvegetated and compacted tramline wheelings.  Field tramlines in cereal crops are an important management tool for farmers but may have environmental costs by increasing the risk of soil erosion and nutrient losses from fields.  The shape of wheel imprints in tramlines channels rain water, promoting rill development and creating rapid pathways for water to run off fields carrying suspended soil sediment, nutrients and pollutants to edge of field ditches and, potentially, to rivers.




The Sustainable Arable Tramlines Project (Link Project 3386. A collaborative research programme funded by Defra, Scottish government and HGCA in collaboration with agricultural industry partners) carried out research in managing autumn tramline wheelings to reduce soil compaction, soil erosion, and pollution of water courses.  Dr. Nancy Oakes of the Bulmer Foundation is a member of the Tramlines Project team.  For further information about the project click here.  The Bulmer Foundation disseminates the project findings to farmers and land managers at agricultural shows, farming conferences and through lectures to students at agricultural colleges.




A key finding from the research project was that soil compaction, surface water runoff and soil sediment losses from tramlines (and consequent river pollution) was significantly reduced by using low ground pressure (6psi) tractor tyres during autumn spray operations compared to conventional inflated tyres (20psi).






Significant benefit of correctly-inflated low ground pressure (LGP) tyres in reducing runoff and sediment loss compared to conventional tyres, is demonstrated in the graph above.

Further investigations found even greater reductions in rainwater run-off, phosphate and sediment losses by shallow cultivation of tramlines by a simple tine attached behind the rear wheels during spraying operations.  This simple attachment to field equipment significantly reduced the adverse environmental impacts of in field tramlines.

Dr Nancy Oakes at the Bulmer Foundation or Dr. Martyn Silgram at ADAS would be pleased to hear from you with questions regarding this project.  Contact e-mails below:

Dr. Nancy Oakes          

Dr. Martyn Silgram       


The ADAS Tramlines Project carried out research to address recognised problems in current farming practices.


Dissemination of the results through Open Days stimulated debate and action in the farming community. Lectures to students studying agriculture and farm mechanisation can bring about industry-wide change in practice to more sustainable ways of farming.


Bringing together farmers, research scientists and the agricultural industry to find answers to farming and environmental problems.


Seeking simple changes in field working practices which can make big differences to fertiliser and soil losses for farmers, enhance soil structure and improve the environment.