Minimizing yield loss from soil compaction at planting
Avoiding mistakes at planting can pay big dividends at harvest. Excessive soil compaction is a common mistake that can be avoided with proper knowledge and planning.
Fields throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions are susceptible to soil compaction, restricting root growth and reducing air and water movement through the soil. While yield loss from soil compaction can vary widely depending on the extent of the compaction and environmental conditions, sever compaction can cause losses of up to 60%.
Favorable growing conditions, such as timely precipitation and high soil fertility can minimize compaction at planting, such as:
Avoid working wet soils, especially in the spring.
Control wheel traffic.
Use larger diameter tires and decrease tire inflation to increase surface area.
“Roughly 80% of compaction occurs on your first pass,” said Jonathan Rotz, Pioneer Field Agronomist. “Minimizing trips on a field and hitting that same path multiple times, while creating severe compaction in those areas, will both focus the compaction in a small area and make it easier to remediate in the future.”
The natural cycle of freeze/thaw and wet/dry can help alleviate some soil compaction. Rotz recommends several remedies, including planting deep rooted perennials like alfalfa — as root channels are an excellent way of loosening soil. For deeper, more serious compaction, employing tillage practices to break up the soil may work best. However, growers should use caution to avoid excess tillage as tilled soils are more easily compacted than non-tilled soils.