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.”
Use a fall strip-till machine for tracks and small ruts (2" to 4"). However, a strip-till tool can’t handle 6" to 8" ruts. Ferrie recommends using a chisel plow to patch areas in the field with deep ruts. Then, in the same spots, use a leveling pass and strip the whole field in the fall. If ruts are consistently deep across the field, chisel plow the entire field and then level it using a vertical-tillage tool. Once you fix ruts, return to your strip-till system in future years.