Every time you set foot — literally — in your fields, you compact the soil. Imagine the compaction your fully loaded combine caused as it crisscrossed a too-wet field last fall. Keep in mind the threat soil compaction poses to yields and know how to combat it.

Nearly every field operation causes soil compaction. Rainfall causes surface compaction (crusting). Over time, its cumulative effect is perhaps the most yield-limiting factor in crop production. University of Wisconsin researchers say soil compaction can reduce yields by as much as 50 percent. It does so by:

  • Reducing water availability
  • Limiting nutrient uptake, especially nitrogen and potassium
  • Inhibiting plant growth — including root penetration — and yield
  • Delaying planting and other field operations because of wetter, colder soils

Improving soil compaction across your fields requires an integrated approach that includes preventive and restorative practices, say representatives of Case IH.

Many steps can help prevent, or at least slow down soil compaction. These include varying tillage depths from year to year, increasing crop rotation, rotating in more taproot crops and staying off of fields that are too wet. Among the most recommended preventive practices is controlling 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.

Soil compaction deserves your attention. If you are seeing it in your fields, take steps to reverse the trend. Breaking through compaction requires time, commitment and patience. Now is the time to get started.