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One Legacy of Late, Wet Fall May Be Soil Compaction

One Legacy of Late, Wet Fall May Be Soil Compaction

The cost of doing business and harvesting in damp fields may be substantial next year.

November is almost here and you still have crops in the field. The tendency is to get them out, even if that means cutting some ruts. Tracks appear to help – at least the ruts aren't as deep. Farmers on long-term no-till seem to leave fewer ruts as well.

But the bottom line is that due to the latest, wettest harvest since 2009, soil compaction could be an issue next spring, notes Betsy Bower, an agronomist in west-central Indiana with Ceres Solutions. She believes it may be an unwelcome legacy that many may have to deal with going into 2015.

Right now, the goal is getting crops out of the field, especially where corn or soybeans are lodging and quality could deteriorate.

Soil compaction hurts: Whether it was from working on wet soils in the spring or from harvesting wet, soil compaction may be an issue in 2015.

Related: How To Avoid Soil Compaction During Harvest Season

Bower expects to see signs of soil compaction nest year. How much will depend on what crop is planted in the worst-rutted fields, and on 2015 weather conditions. Corn seems to struggle more with soil compaction than soybeans overall. If there is plenty of moisture during the growing season, compaction may be masked. However, if it is a year with stress from drought and/or heat, soil compaction impacts and a potential yield loss are more likely to develop.

Deep ripping may help after soil is compacted, but only if it is done right, she says. That means doing it when it is dry. There is little if any data showing actual benefits of deep ripping on yields.

If deep ripping is done incorrectly, says when soils are still wet, it can actually make problems worse, she notes.

Related: Bring Soil Compaction to Life through Demonstrations

Cover crops can help, but they're not an instant fix either, she says. If cover crops haven't been seeded yet, it may be late for most. However, cereal rye could still be seeded this late in the season with decent prospects of success.

TAGS: Soybean
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