COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As Ohio farmers harvest their corn and soybeans during what is turning out to be the wettest fall in at least three years, they are being encouraged to keep in mind the one thing that could negatively impact next year's crops: soil compaction.
Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer, said that heavy farm equipment, such as tractors, combines and grain carts, driven on wet or saturated soils increases the risk for soil compaction. Compaction destroys the soil structure and leaves ruts, increasing spring planting problems and potentially contributing to poor plant performance.
"Compacted soils reduce root growth, making it harder for roots to reach deep into the soil. They also reduce the ability for rainfall to penetrate the soil," said Reeder, who also holds a partial research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "A compacted surface layer often seals off any chance of water being absorbed into the soil, and it just moves as run-off, causing erosion."
Not only does soil compaction prevent a fruitful spring planting, but it also affects plant performance and impacts yields.
Sixteen years of Ohio State research on Hoytville silty clay loam showed that through compaction from a 20-ton per axle load, at least 10 percent of potential crop yield was being left in the field, adding up to thousands of dollars in lost profits for large-farm growers.
Growers can help minimize some of the issues surrounding compacted soils with the following tips to help reduce compaction during harvest:
"No-till soils have a more solid structure than tilled soils. Good no-till soils create their own natural channels for root growth and water permeation, from old root systems to earthworm burrows," said Reeder.
"Some of these practices may slow down a farmer during harvest, but they are good points to keep in mind that could lead to better soil structure and minimize any damage to next year's yields," said Reeder.
SOURCE: Ohio State News release.