Measuring Soil Compaction (Nov 7)

Are your crops showing signs of nutrient deficiency, but not improving following a sidedress application of fertilizer? There may be a hidden infliction below your field – soil compaction. Soil compaction has a long list of possible causes, and the effects on your crops are sometimes difficult to interpret.

DocGreen_Soil_CompactionExcessive pressure on the surface of your field will compress the soil, eliminating important air pockets and increasing the soil bulk density (weight per volume). It can be caused by heavy rain events, livestock traffic, and most commonly by farm equipment. Soil is most likely to be compacted when pressure is applied to moist soil. Spring planting or tillage is a practice that must be done carefully, when the soil is dry enough that the heavy farm equipment will not cause compaction.

When pore space is reduced in the soil it is very difficult for roots to push through in a search for water, resulting in a weak or shallow root structure. Restricted root growth directly affects crop growth and yield. The symptoms may resemble nutrient deficiency, when the actual culprit is soil compaction hindering the transport of nutrients. While roots are struggling to find water, water is also struggling to move through the soil. Rain and applied water will have difficulty infiltrating, and may cause pooling, runoff, and erosion. When there is less available poor space in the soil, water will fill every crevice and create a lack of oxygen.

Soil compaction can become a constant problem year after year if it goes unnoticed too long. When soil compaction is measured, real-time decisions and long-term strategies can be made to alleviate the compaction in the field which will lead to improved yields in the long-term.


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