Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Soil Compaction

I bet that soil compaction is the number one yield robber in the United States this year. 60% of soil organic matter has been lost due to tillage in the past 100 years and organic matter is the energy rich, carbon laden "cushion" between soil particles.

Crops and Soils magazine has an excellent article on The Biology of Soil Compaction in today's newsletter. If you are a farmer, take time to read and think about this subject this summer.

This is the crux of my talks across the country and around the world. Notill and cover crops are the best ways I have found to reduce soil compaction and maximize crop growth so I can make some money farming and keep on making farming. I think this is key to farm and country survival.

Most of the midwest, the bread belt where corn is king has been planted in soil that was marginally dry enough to plant into in recent years. You couldn't even think about planting until June this year in the east like Ohio and some farmers have had that situation four years in a row. Talk about soil compaction, they have got it!

No wonder so many believe in tillage and talk about rippers on ag forums and in barnyards. Tillage just compounds the problem for me and my cover crop is my ripper so my soil biology benefits from growing roots instead of cold, hard, compacting stell that burns fuel to pull it.

I see compaction in every field here, even my own although I have worked hard to avoid it. It's about impossible to avoid compaction in years like this one, no matter how you farm.

But the little things matter and it all adds up. The crop is best here where there is the least soil compaction. Some fields will never make it without an inch of rain every week, which you can't depend on after 25 inches in 8 weeks.

Working with Mother Nature to take care of your soil while making a living is no easy matter.

The best and brightest are doing it and those fields will be productive long after we are gone.

Ed Winkle

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