Crop consultants are already targeting soil compaction as one of the problems that will be remembered from 2014. The impact will show up in 2015 and possibly beyond, they say. And, they're not saying it could be totally avoided. With the fall turning wet and dragging on, getting the crop out of the field became an even higher priority than usual, and also became more challenging.
David Ring, Huntingburg, says it's another challenging harvest season in southern Indiana. It also was a challenging planting season for many as well. Late spring and late harvest appears to be the norm there this year. In between, however, most people grew a very good crop.
Ring had a 1,000 bushel grain cart with wheels that he used previously. With the prospect of wet soils, figuring on a late harvest, he decided the best option was to trade for a cart with tracks. His new cart has 36-inch wide tracks. They deal with wet soils on a fairly regular basis because of their soil types on their farm.
Current thinking is that spreading the weight load over tracks when compared with the smaller imprint of tires helps reduce the potential for deep soil compaction. Deep soil compaction can be very hard to reduce in the future. It requires dry soils before you can do anything about it, and even then there is no real scientific data about the benefits of ripping on helping compacted soils recover.
Tracks aren't a panacea or a license to run through the mud just because you can, say people who study soil health and soil compaction. However, there are some obvious benefits. Tracks tend to leave less rutting on the surface. Imprints don't go as deep as with carts bearing heavy loads running on tires and going across wet ground. Look for more on soil compaction discussions in the future.