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.
3. Freeze-thaw cycles alleviate soil compaction caused by machinery.
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.