Soil Compaction is a common concern among farmers and if not managed carefully can lead to many negative consequences for your crop. Compaction happens when soil particles are pressed tightly together. This reduces the pore space within the soil and leads to dense soil.
Densely compacted soil isn’t ideal for a healthy crop. It can lead to issues with water infiltration and drainage, oxygen flow, and decrease the overall health and strength of the soil. Let’s take a closer look at some of the greater consequences of not managing your soil compaction.
Consequences of Soil Compaction
- Soil structure
Heavy traffic due to farming equipment and tillage implements can damage and reduce soil structure. A good soil structure is a good defense against compaction, but a compromised soil structure leaves soil particles more susceptible to compaction from external pressure. This leads to increased density and decreased pore space within your soil.
Heavily trafficked soils retain moisture longer, recharge more slowly, and are slower to warm up compared to less-compacted soils
- Nutrient uptake
When soil compaction affects the soil structure by making it denser, roots are less able to penetrate the soil. This leads to crops that are shallow and malformed. This growth restriction means your crops aren’t able to extract the nutrients and moisture they need from the soil.
- Crop growth & root development
These shallow roots lead to greater issues within your crop growth. Crops grown in compacted soil are likely to be smaller and shorter.
If timely rains don’t soften the compacted layers so roots can penetrate the soil, plants will be stunted, and have fewer fine roots and less overall root mass. Corn is the most sensitive because it’s one of the taller crops. By the end of the season, corn may be 6 inches to 2 feet shorter on compacted soil than on non-compacted soil.
- Crop yield
Overall, compacted soil can lead to a reduced crop yield. Some research has suggested that soil compaction can reduce crop yield by as much as 60%.
Smart Farming Solutions
While improving soil health can help combat compaction, the most effective defense is to reduce compaction altogether. This can be achieved through PIPE AG’s smart farming capabilities.
The harvest season poses the biggest threat of compaction, especially if the ground is wet. Combines and grain carts move across the soil over and over, pressing it down and disrupting the structure. However, 80% of the damage a grain cart does to soil happens in its first pass. If additional passes are made across the same lane, little additional compaction occurs.
This means that farmers should try and keep their tractors and grain carts operating in the same lanes as much as possible.
PIPE AG leverages modern smart farming technology to address this issue directly. With our compaction map functionality, farmers can take control of their compaction and grow a better crop.