Don't Till Wet Soils - UNL CropWatch, April 19, 2013

Don't Till Wet Soils - UNL CropWatch, April 19, 2013

April 19, 2013

Compacted wet field

Figure 1. TIlling or driving on wet soils will cause soil compaction that can have long-term effects on soil health and water infiltration.

With the cool, wet spring this year, many producers may be tempted to head to the field sooner than they should. Some may feel they need to till the soil to dry it out and aid soil warming. Unfortunately, tilling or driving on a wet soil is the primary causes of soil compaction. Too often, when soils are tilled wet, clods may be formed that require additional tillage operations to break them up. This tillage also destroys soil structure and packs the soil below the tillage depth, forming a compaction layer that causes problems with water infiltration and root penetration.

A drier soil is more suited to support the weight of the tillage equipment and tractors and is less likely to compact. However, tillage still destroys soil structure and the soil surface will stay wetter, longer the next time it rains. Without soil structure, subsequent trips over the field will cause additional compaction.

Even with no-till, waiting a day or two for the soil to dry out some will provide better soil conditions for stand establishment. As soil structure improves with continuous no-till, water infiltrates better into the soil and wet soil problems are greatly reduced.

Paul Jasa
Extension Engineer