This quiz can help you get a better handle on a field’s compaction risk. The University of Nebraska assessment tool was adapted by Jodi-DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota. For each question, choose the response that best describes the situation in the field. Add up the points and see the rating at the end.

 

1. The organic matter of your soil is:

5 = low (< 1.5%)

3 = medium (1.5% - 3%)

1 = high (> 3.0%)

 

2. You usually do spring tillage:

5 = when you still carry a chain in case you get stuck

3 = when ‘it’s a little wet, but I’ll go anyway’

0 = when soil at the maximum tillage depth doesn’t slab

 

3. How often do you notice rows of stunted plants or delayed emergence where wheel tracks are obvious?

5 = most years

3 = in wet springs

0 = never

 

4. Is it getting harder to get yield responses despite high nitrogen soil test levels?

5 = yes

3 = occasionally

0 = no

 

5. Do you moldboard plow or disk?

5 = yes

0 = no

 

6. Do you run equipment axle loads exceeding 10 tons/axle on fields?

5 = yes, combine and primary tillage tractors

5 = yes, grain hauling carts or trucks

3 = just the combine

0 = no loads over 10 tons/axle

 

7. Does your ground crust after rainstorms? Do seedlings have difficulty emerging through the crust?

5 = most years

3 = occasionally

0 = rarely

 

8. Is your ground well drained?

5 = no

3 = partially

0 = yes

 

9. Do you perform plow, disk and harrow tillage operations before planting?

5 = always

3 = sometimes

0 = never

 

10. Do you begin spring tillage in the same field each year?

5 = usually

3 = depends on soil moisture of each field

1 = I rarely do spring tillage

 

Rate your risk

Less than 21:You are exercising good care in limiting compaction.

38 – 50 points:Do some serious digging into how much compaction you already have and how deep it is. Consider changing practices that add to compaction. Soil compaction may be limiting your yields in dry years.

22 – 37 points:Check for compaction pans. Remember that primary tillage or subsoiling is effective for breaking up compacted layers only when performed on dry soils. Afterwards, the soil is very vulnerable to re-compaction, so adjust your practices so you don’t abuse the soils in the future.