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Assessing Damage Caused by Accidental Vehicle Traffic on Sugarcane Ratoon

Paula, V.R. de, Molin, J.P.
Applied engineering in agriculture 2013 v.29 no.2 pp. 161-169
biometry, clay, clay soils, energy crops, plantations, raw materials, sandy soils, soil compaction, soil texture, sugarcane, tillering, tractors, traffic, wagons
Sugarcane is a very efficient energy crop, and its plantations last 5 to 6 years on average in Brazil. Plantations would last longer if ratoon damage was better managed by some type of traffic control. This study proposes a method to simulate and measure damage to the soil and plant caused by involuntary traffic of vehicles transporting sugarcane stalks. A study was performed by applying load passes to newly harvested sugarcane under controlled conditions using typical loads to the ground by a tractor and infield wagons, and identifying the resulting effects on soil and crop. Experiments were conducted in two areas with homogeneous characteristics, one on clay soil and the other on a sandy soil. After traffic simulations, evaluations were conducted on soil characteristics (compaction and density), plants (sprouting failures, tillering, biometrics, and yield), in addition to analysis of raw material quality. Results indicated an influence of field traffic on the crop rows that increased soil compaction. In the experimental area of high clay content, there was significant reduction in yield in treatments of traffic on sugarcane ratoon, and in the experimental area of sandy soil texture, differences were not significant. There was no influence of treatments on raw material quality, or on sprouting failures and tillering. As for biometrics quality, field traffic on clay soil caused reduction of stem length. The unintended field traffic caused changes in the soil, which were more intense in the clay soil causing negative effects on plants. Also, traffic control allowed high traffic without affecting the sugarcane crop.