The last thing on a farmers mind right now–during planting frenzy time–is thinking about what he is doing to the soil. It’s all about getting the seed in the ground.
But as no-till farmers know–and strip-till farmers are learning–the best seedbed occurs in mellow, uncompacted soil.
Successful Farming’s Agriculture Online has a great story on how spring is the best time to check compaction–and how to use a simple tool, the shovel, to assess fields. The piece quotes Kansas State soil management specialist DeAnn Presley, who drives home key points:
- Assess fields when entire soil profile is moist but not saturated
- Amount of soil water present is critical for compaction potential
- Penetrometers best mimic root penetration potential
- Best cure for compaction is not driving on soils that are too wet
- Shallow surface compaction can be reduced by adopting GPS-based auto steering to create controlled traffic patterns.
Perhaps someday we’ll have a precision farming compaction data layer on field maps so we can truly learn how bad compaction is on yields.