Soil compaction is one of those things that happens when you’re trying to get ahead. Instead, it can set your fields back for years. Consider the consequences before you try to gain a day or two this spring.
Soil compaction can harm production in many ways. So many, in fact, that Iowa State University Extension came up with a top 10 list of reasons to avoid it. Among them:
- Reduces crop productivity
- Restricts root development
- Decreases soil available water
- Increases sediment and nutrient losses
- Increases surface runoff
- Damages soil structure
Equally important is the list of ways you can minimize soil compaction this spring, or any time of year:
Stay off fields that are too wet. Saturated fields are more susceptible to soil compaction. We’ve all seen the pictures — many from last fall’s challenging harvest — of deep, water-filled ruts running across fields. It doesn’t take such extreme conditions to cause serious soil compaction. A simple ball test can help you determine when fields are fit. Roll some soil into a ball in your hand. Watch to see if the soil breaks apart as you work it. If you toss the ball into the air and it shatters or cracks when it hits the ground, conditions likely are suitable for tillage or planting. If not, wait just a day or two and protect your soil.
Maintain proper tire pressure. Properly inflated tires reduce soil compaction while improving tractor efficiency. Studies have shown that given the same axle load, tire inflation determines the depth and severity of compaction. MyShed™ and the MyShed mobile app — via the Case IH Partstore — and the app’s new tire guide can put tire information for all of your tractors and implements in the palm of your hand. Larger tires with lower air pressure provide better flotation and can reduce load on the soil surface.
Reduce field traffic. During a growing season, up to 90 percent of a field can be tracked by equipment. Managing wheel traffic with the Case IH Advanced Farming System (AFS) can pinpoint traffic to as few paths as possible, from tillage to planting to spray applications to harvest. You also can manage wheel traffic by reducing the number of wheels. Industry-leading track technology from Case IH, including the Steiger® Quadtrac®, Steiger Rowtrac™ and the new Magnum™ Rowtrac™ deliver exceptional performance in independent-track technology.
Other practices — such as varying tillage depths from year to year, increasing crop rotation, rotating in more taproot crops and reducing axle weight if you must enter too-wet fields — can help prevent soil compaction and even reverse it.
So while you’re waiting for your fields to dry this spring, spend some time checking tire pressure and studying ways to limit trips across your fields. You’ll be more efficient, and your crops likely will be more productive.