INDIANAPOLIS — Due to the very wet spring, which consisted of endless weeks of rainy days, Hoosier farmers had to delay planting much later than normal.
Although farmers finally have seen a period of dry weather, allowing them to get in their fields and plant, the fields still are wet and heavy equipment on the ground increases the risk of soil compaction.
Jerry Raynor, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana, said even in a typical year, when planting is on time and soil conditions are favorable, soil compaction still can be a limiting factor due to root depths and the water table below.
“Anytime it is wet and farmers are in the field, the increase of soil compaction is easier in wet soils,” he said.
Raynor said the pressure the soil feels from farm machinery creates a layer, which one can’t typically see, that gets cracked and dries out over a long period of time, which allows water to infiltrate through the soil.
The state conservationist provided some tips for farmers to remember to help limit the amount of soil compaction that occurs.
- Limited trips: Raynor said the less the equipment is in the field the better. Farmers should try to minimize their trips across the field to help alleviate extra weight on the soil.
- Change row pattern: Changing directions and pattern of planting helps reduce compaction over time.
- Plant cover crops: Planting cover crops into a field, such as radishes and turnips, allows large root systems to grow through the soil and break up compaction.