Question: How do I address pinch-row compaction in my fields?
Answer: Pinch-row compaction results when soil next to a row is crushed by a heavy tractor or planter wheel, restricting a root’s growing space. Because of the wet spring, and the use of heavier tractors and center-fill planters, we’ll probably see quite a bit of this problem this fall, especially in fields where conventional tillage is used because the ground is softer, enabling the compaction to go deeper. But it can be a problem in no-till and strip-till, too. I recommend adopting some type of tillage game plan for this fall. You need to get all the way underneath the compacted layer and lift it up. You need to do that without subjecting your soil to wind or water erosion or violating your highly erodible land conservation plan. The more aggressive your vertical-tillage tool, the more soil you fracture, the faster you will fix the problem. But the more aggressive your tillage, the less residue you will leave on the surface. It’s a trade-off. If you’re working in soybean residue, you need to be especially sensitive. Use an in-line ripper or a chisel plow with straight points, rather than twisted shanks, to maintain as much surface residue as possible. In corn residue, with shallow compaction, a coulter chisel may be all you need. If compaction is deep—if you tracked or rutted up the soil enough to require filling in the ruts last spring—you may need a disk ripper.
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