Compaction frequently goes unrecognized by farmers, but it can result in decreased yields. There are a number of ways to avoid the development of compacted soil, the most important of which is keeping equipment off wet soil (when it’s in a plastic state). Draining wet soils, using controlled traffic lanes, and using permanent beds (that are never driven on) are ways to avoid compaction. Also, reduced tillage and larger organic matter additions make the surface less susceptible to the breakdown of aggregates and to crust formation—as does maintaining a surface mulch and routine use of cover crops. Reducing compaction once it occurs involves using cover crops that are able to break into subsurface compact layers and using equipment such as subsoilers and zone builders to break up compact subsoil.


Gugino, B.K., Idowu, O.J., Schindelbeck, R.R., van Es, H.M., Wolfe, D.W., Thies, J.E., et al. 2007. Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual (Version 1.2). Geneva, NY: Cornell University.

Kok, H., R.K. Taylor, R.E. Lamond, and S. Kessen. 1996. Soil Compaction: Problems and Solutions. Cooperative Extension Service Publication AF 115. Manhattan: Kansas State University.

Moebius, B.N., H.M. van Es, J.O. Idowu, R.R. Schindelbeck, D.J. Clune, D.W. Wolfe, G.S. Abawi, J.E. Thies, B.K. Gugino, and R. Lucey. 2008. Long-term removal of maize residue for bioenergy: Will it affect soil quality? Soil Science Society of America Journal 72: 960–969.

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. 1997. Soil Management. Best Management Practices Series. Available from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.