UNL CropWatch April 28, 2011: Avoid Tilling Wet Soils

UNL CropWatch April 28, 2011: Avoid Tilling Wet Soils

April 28, 2011

With this year's cool, wet spring many producers may be tempted to head to the field sooner than they should.

Some producers feel that they need to till a soil to dry it out and aid soil warming. Unfortunately, driving on a wet soil and tilling are the primary causes of soil compaction. Too often, soils that are tilled wet form clods that require additional tillage operations to break them up. This tillage also destroys soil structure and packs the soil below the tillage depth, causing 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, the soil structure is still destroyed and the soil surface will stay wetter longer the next time it rains. Without 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.

For more information, see To Avoid Compaction, Don’t Till Wet Soils in the April 2, 2010 issue of CropWatch.

Paul Jasa
Extension Engineer