Last fall, the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University Extension teams, along with several other key sponsors, organized a "Tires, Traction & Compaction Field Day" near Fergus Falls.
Over the past year, Jodi DeJong-Hughes, U-M regional crops educator at the Mid-Central Research & Outreach Center in Willmar, worked at compiling and editing content from that field day to produce videos for farmers.
"We created four videos, one for each soil pit," DeJong-Hughes said. "Topics include what is compaction and its effects, controlling wheel traffic, importance of soil structure, and avoidance of compaction with proper tire pressure."
Links for the videos and brief descriptions are as follows:
Video 1: Describes soil compaction, its effects, and a few ways to avoid compaction. The freeze-thaw cycle myth is addressed as well as a brief introduction of the next three videos in the series.
Video 2: Soil aggregation is your number one defense against soil compaction. This video described soil aggregation and how to improve soil biology with cover crops to create a stronger more resilient soil.
Video 3: Discusses how to manage wheel traffic to reduce compaction, tracks and tires, proper tire inflation, and the benefits of controlled traffic.
Video 4: Discusses how to make your tractor tires perform at their best.
Preparing for the one-day event was a huge undertaking. Organizers had to re-create "soil compaction" in four soil trenches. Don and Dan Bradow volunteered the use of their farm for the project.
Days before the meeting, volunteers dug four trenches in a former wheat field, each about three feet deep. They carefully refilled the trench with alternate layers of 4 inches of black soil and 1.5 inches of sand (to help show soil movement and compaction) until the pit was filled again. Then workers drove tractors, outfitted with either tracks or rear duals of various tire sizes and inflation levels and pulling heavy field machinery, over the refilled pits. A backhoe carefully re-dug part of each trench and a volunteer used a shovel to neaten the vertical soil face so visitors could see the soil profile.
Folks who attended the meeting had the opportunity to see how soil moved under heavy weight and the impact of proper tire size and weight. The videos provide a good review for those who attended. And it offers new viewers an opportunity to learn more about soil compaction.