Answer: False. “It’s a myth that the freeze-thaw cycle solves compaction,” Reeder says. The effects of freezing and thawing are confined to the top few inches of soil. In the northern latitudes, the ground typically stays frozen 20-40 in. deep all winter, so you get only one cycle. In the eastern and southern parts of the Farm Belt, there are repeated freeze and thaw cycles, but the ground seldom freezes more than a foot deep – not enough to resolve deep compaction.

In the Midwest, where many soils have a high content of expanding clay, wetting and drying cycles break up more soil compaction than freezing and thawing, says DeJong-Hughes. The 2012 drought caused fracturing and cracking in the upper 6-20 in. of soil, says Al-Kaisi. The drought also triggered other soil changes, he says, especially in tilled fields, such as crusting and deterioration of soil aggregates.

In soils that contain expanding 2:1 clay, wetting and drying cycles can fracture soil down to 2 ft. helping the soil recover from compaction.