Preventing and Lessening Compaction

Preventing and Lessening Compaction

Preventing and Lessening Compaction

A lasting injury is done by ploughing land too wet.

—S.L. DANA, 1842

We’ve already discussed the benefits of cover crops, rotations, reduced tillage, and organic matter additions for improving soil structure. However, these practices still may not prevent compacted soils unless specific steps are taken to reduce the impact of heavy loads from field equipment and inappropriately timed field operations. The causes of compaction were discussed in chapter 6, and in this chapter we’ll discuss strategies to prevent and lessen soil compaction. The first step is to decide whether compaction is a problem and which type is affecting your soils. The symptoms, as well as remedies and preventive measures, are summarized in table 15.1.

TABLE 15.1: Types of Compaction and Their Remedies
Compaction Type Indications Remedies/Prevention
Surface crusting

Breakdown of surface aggregates and sealing of surface

Poor seedling emergence

Accelerated runoff and erosion

Reduce tillage intensity.

Leave residues on surface.

Add organic matter.

Grow cover crops.

Plow layer

Deep wheel tracks

Prolonged saturation or standing water

Poor root growth

Hard to dig and resistant to penetrometer

Cloddy after tillage

Plow with moldboard or chisel plow, but reduce secondary tillage.

Do primary tillage before winter (if no erosion danger exists).

Use zone builders.

Increase organic matter additions.

Use cover crops or rotation crops that can break up compact soils.

Use better load distribution.

Use controlled traffic.

Don’t travel on soils that are wet.

Improve soil drainage.

Subsoil

Roots can’t penetrate subsoil

Resistant to penetrometer at greater depths

Don’t travel on soils that are wet.

Improve soil drainage.

Till deeply with a subsoiler or zone builder.

Use cover crops or rotation crops that penetrate compact subsoils.

Use better load distribution.

Use controlled traffic.

Don’t use wheels in open furrows.

Chapter Fourteen: Sources | Top | Crusting and Surface Sealing