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Soil compaction is costing you more than you realize

By: RealAgriculture News Team

March 25, 2020

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Agronomically speaking, soil compaction is — and should be —at the forefront of farmers’ minds. RealAgriculture’s resident agronomist Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson isn’t new to speaking on or dealing with the topic, but as the years go on, there seems to be more solutions to dealing with compaction as we understand it more.

The need to understanding compaction is becoming more and more prevalent, as it’s not something that can be easily reversed, and the impacts are costly.

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“Once you have compaction, particularly deep compaction, it can take decades [to correct]. We don’t even know how long it takes to correct that, but we have excellent data that says even after 13 years, there is still a three per cent yield loss from one compaction event. That’s not multiple compaction events, that’s one single compaction event,” Johnson says.

How do we deal with this? What are some of the things we can do as farmers to mitigate soil compaction?

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“We can correct shallow compaction at least with air pressure in tires, but axel load is what causes deep compaction. Tractor weights have gone up 900 pounds per year since 1965,” says Johnson. “We have tractors now that are 30 tonnes in weight and are hauling grain buggies. We have grain buggies that are up to 50 tonnes per axel. And we wonder why we have deep compaction?”

Many producers from across the country oftentimes underestimate the severity of compaction we already face.

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“Part of it is because we’ve had very little we can do about it, and it’s very hard to test for. Ohio State has done some excellent work, and they’ve proven that a heavy combine, a heavy grain buggy, a heavy manure tanker — you can lose 25 per cent in yield the next year,” he says.

There are some really simple things growers can do. “One of the problems is you’ve got to know the weight of your equipment. If you don’t know the weight of your equipment, then you can’t set the pressure properly in your tire. ”

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Check out the full conversation between Peter Johnson and Shaun Haney, below: