What is in this article?:
- How To Avoid Soil Compaction: True, False Q&A
- 2. Topsoil and subsoil compaction have different effects on yield.
- 3. Freeze-thaw cycles alleviate soil compaction caused by machinery.
- 4. Clay soils are more easily compacted than coarser soils.
- 5. No-till soils resist compaction better than tilled soils.
- 6. Limiting axle loads is the key to avoiding subsoil compaction.
- 7. Tracks are better than tires for reducing soil compaction.
- 8. Deep tillage corrects the harmful effects of compaction.
- 9. You need ‘steel’ to alleviate compaction.
- 10. Lowering tire inflation pressure reduces surface compaction.
- QUIZ: Assess your soil compaction risk
Soil compaction is invisible, but its effects are clear to see: cloddy soil, delayed crop emergence, restricted root growth, stunted plants, low water infiltration, poor nutrient uptake and lost yield.
And reduced production isn’t the only penalty. Soil compaction also harms the environment, leading to more runoff and soil erosion.
The threat of soil compaction is far greater today than in the past because of the increasing size and weight of farm equipment. Although the risk of new compaction is low when the soil is very dry – as it is in much of the Corn Belt – existing compaction makes crops more vulnerable to damage by drought.
What’s the best way to manage soil compaction? Prevent it from happening in the first place, says Sjoerd Duiker, a Pennsylvania State University soil scientist. “Instead of looking for solutions to get rid of compaction, we’re trying to promote practices that avoid compaction from the beginning.”
How well do you understand the causes of soil compaction – and how to avoid it? Test your knowledge below, then take our quiz to assess your soil compaction risk.
1. Topsoil and subsoil compaction have different causes.
Answer: True. Compaction in the top 12 in. of soil is due to ground contact pressure, says Penn State’s Duiker. That’s the force exerted by a tire or track on the soil surface, expressed in pounds per square inch, or psi.
Compaction in the upper part of the subsoil, from about 12 to 20 in., is caused by a combination of ground contact pressure and axle load.
Compaction in the lower subsoil is caused by high axle loads when the soil is wet. In soils with a hardpan, Duiker adds, compaction from heavy axle loads will be concentrated above the restricted layer. Plowing with a tractor wheel in the furrow is another cause of deep compaction, says Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Extension educator-crops.