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Combat Soil Compaction

October 18, 2012
By: Davis Michaelsen, Pro Farmer Inputs Monitor Editor

Soil compaction can have dramatic effects on the nutrient profile in your soil and can inhibit root growth and nutrient uptake and cut into your yields. Eliminating soil compaction will restore natural growth patterns and allow nutrients to move correctly through the soil and do its work.

The first suggestion is a good idea anyway and that is to ensure your tires are inflated properly. Check with your tire manufacturer and inflate to the lowest recommended pressure in pounds per square inch (psi). If you want to really zero in, consider having your implements weighed at your local co-op. You can use that information to accurately gauge the load on your tires and achieve more precise inflation psi.

The second thing you can do to combat soil compaction is to minimize field traffic. Think of your plot as having two distinct zones -- one for tires, one for plants. If you navigate through your fields in such a way as to place your tires in the same tracks, you can establish a safe zone for roots to flourish.

The third suggestion is to grow a cover crop and switch to no-till. Soil tests have shown that undisturbed soil is much less susceptible to compaction. With a cover crop massaging the soil, yields have been shown to increase. When a cover crop is in place, the soil can carry out its natural function much more easily and a no-till strategy will decrease the number of trips made between the fencelines.

Soil compaction can limit yield potentials, choke and stifle root development and waste costly nutria. These are two expenses growers cannot afford, but with a little preparation and a soil-centered strategy, your soil will be able to deliver to its full potential.


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