What is in this article?:
- Tillage Tips to Help Avoid (Or Deal With) Compaction
- Which tillage methods should you use?
- Moist soils are easily compacted because there's still air locked in the soil
- Freezing and thawing cycles can alleviate some compaction
- Deep tillage may fracture compacted zone and introduce air into soil
Which tillage methods should you use?
If you have a deep compaction zone as indicated by a soil probe, one of your choices may be to use deep tillage to fracture the compressed zone and introduce air into the soil at deeper levels to enhance the shattering capability. Deep ripping is one alternative, which uses a tillage tool with five to seven heavy standards that will rip compaction zones that are 12-18 in. or less. It is possible to obtain tines that do a good job below the surface without altering the crop residue on the surface.
Regardless of your choice of tillage tool, Nafziger says there are several basic principles to guide your operations.
- Soils shatter only when their moisture level is below field capacity, so running a tillage tool in deep tillage will do little good if the soil is at its maximum field capacity. He says if the implement pulls easier than anticipated, it may be because the soil is above field capacity for moisture.
- Compaction zones below the reach of the tines will not be affected, and if the tillage is being conducted in soils that are too wet, compaction will only increase.
- Primary tillage should leave some residue on the surface to prevent erosion problems next spring, an important fact that occurs when sloping fields allow water runoff.
Most of your concerns may be about compaction in the soils that will be planted to corn next year that means deep tilling soybean stubble, which is already a mellow soil. Soybean stubble should be checked with a soil probe for any compaction. However, with bean yields as high as they were, one would wonder if there was a compaction problem. Nafziger says compaction does not always have a negative effect on yield and compaction layers may even hold moisture for the benefit of the crops planted in that field. But for the most part, he says there is more negative than positive to soil compaction.
Soil has a considerable number of pores, in addition to its mineral and organic content, which means it can hold moisture of varying amounts. Extensive water quantities mean there will be less compaction, but surface crusting will hold water. Dry soils will shatter more than wet soils during tillage operations. Freezing and thawing cycles will also facture compaction zones, but such zones will not benefit if they are too deep for only one cycle per year. Heavy equipment can compact soils, but primarily on the top. Deep tillage can be used to shatter the compacted layers, but its benefit is limited to how low it can go.