Answer: False. “There are biological solutions to compaction,” Reeder says. Cover crops, for example, can break up compacted soil. Plants like oilseed radish grow more than 2 ft. deep, creating channels and fissures for crop roots to follow the next season. Cereal rye is another deep-rooted cover crop that can penetrate compacted layers.

Growers in central Illinois are evaluating cover crops for several reasons, including the benefits of breaking up the compaction caused by wet seasons a couple of years ago, says Kelli Bassett, Pioneer field agronomist in Greenville, Ill. In fact, cover crop “seed availability this year was limited because of increased interest.”

Drainage improvements can help manage compaction, too, Reeder says, especially in low spots within fields that often get worked wet. So can more diverse crop rotations, which let growers “spread out field activities so there’s more opportunity to do field operations at the proper soil moisture,” Duiker says. “Tillage should be used sparingly to alleviate compaction when no other means can be used.”