As the combines roll across fields, it’s not hard to spot the wheel tracks, ruts and pinch rows. At planting and sidedressing, it came to the point that causing field damage was better than having little to no crop at all. Now it’s time to reckon with the damage. Take advantage of a dry harvest to fix the issues stemming from excessive rainfall this past spring and summer.
“Breaking up compaction in wheel tracks this fall will gain more benefit from the freezing and thawing cycle,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. “The best option is to follow the combine as close as possible with your tillage regimen to ensure you’re working in drier soil and have time on your side.”
To determine how to fix ruts, pinch rows and wheel tracks, consider your standard fall routine and crop rotation.
“There is a big difference between preparing a seedbed for corn versus soybeans,” Ferrie says. “You can get away with tougher conditions ahead of soybeans compared to corn.”
To eliminate ruts in conventional-till, use a chisel plow or disk ripper on cornstalks, then follow with a leveling pass next spring. Run a chisel plow at a slight angle across the wheel tracks to break up
In bean stubble with 4" ruts, use a soil finisher and level in the spring. If ruts are 6" to 8", use a chisel plow to fill them in first. If possible, spot chisel to fix only the areas in the field with ruts. Follow with a soil finisher pass next spring. Use aerial imagery from the growing season to help determine whether you can patch the field or if it all needs to be worked.