Back to Focus
on Cotton

Managing Soil Compaction
in Agricultural Fields

December 2015

By Randy L. Raper, Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station
Oklahoma State University

Watch Presentation (30 min 33 sec)

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Summary: Soil compaction has sometimes been referred to as the 'silent thief' because it reduces rooting, infiltration, water storage, aeration, drainage, and crop growth and can 'steal' profits! Soil compaction has been studied intensively for more than a century and yet, we still struggle with the effect that soil compaction has on crop production and the environment. In this presentation, we attempt to present the primary causes of soil compaction including trafficking weak soil, excessive loads, and soils which are somewhat predisposed to soil compaction. Suggestions are also made to alleviate soil compaction which varies from gradual improvement using conservation tillage systems to the immediate improvement offered by subsoiling. Additionally, methods are covered that producers can use to avoid compacting their soil, including reducing their axle load, using radial tires and maintaining proper inflation pressure, duals, tracks, and controlling their traffic. Unfortunately, few if any of our suggestions could be used to cure soil compaction because as long as vehicles are used to plant and harvest crops on the same soil that is used to produce crops, there will continue to be soil compaction and an endless battle to reduce the ill effects of soil compaction.

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