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Ruts and Soil Compaction after Harvest (05/07/20)

Wet field conditions during harvest left many fields with ruts. The cold and wet weather means that many of those areas have yet to be filled and leveled with tillage.

Wet field conditions during harvest left many fields with ruts. The cold and wet weather means that many of those areas have yet to be filled and leveled with tillage. These areas will have deep soil compaction below the typical depth of most primary tillage implements. The winter freeze only helps alleviate compaction in the top several inches and is inefficient at breaking up compaction at deeper depths. Producers can expect an average yield loss of 15% or slightly more for over the next two or three years. Once soils have had time to dry this spring, ruts should be filled and leveled with tillage only as deep as or shallower than the rut. Tilling below the rut in wet conditions will not improve yields, but will result in smeared soils, additional deep compaction, breakdown of soil aggregates, and a poor seedbed to plant into. Prioritize filling and leveling ruts with a couple tillage passes to get a flat seedbed for uniform seed placement. Natural cracking of soils during the dry summer months and, to some extent, the crops root system will start alleviating the deeper soil compaction before next fall’s field operations.

 

Aaron Daigh

NDSU Assistant Professor of Soil Physics

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