A new study conducted found that heavy farm machines have the same impact on soil compaction as the dinosaurs who stomped on the soil millions of years ago. Soil compaction is the result of too much pressure being applied to soils.
Sauropods, the heaviest type of dinosaur, weighed 66 tons, which is about the same weight as today’s farm machines. As a result of the intense pressure caused by sauropods and heavy farm machines, soil compaction occurs.
“Imagine if giant footprints, like those of the dinosaurs — or tread from machines of dinosaur mass — were relentlessly pounding or pushing away at the earth, tampering it down until much of the air and water were pressed out,”Cristen Hemingway Jaynes writes in this article for World Economic Forum.
Today’s farm machines are heavier and apply more pressure on the soil than they would’ve 60 years ago. Because of the intense pressure on the soil, machines can impact the soil’s oxygen and prevent its roots from growing.
When soil structures have too much compaction, the growth of plants decreases and leads to decrease in yields. It can also increase the risk of floods as the earth becomes less porous, speeding up runoff and filling up waterways more quickly.
As the machines became bigger, tires became wider. However, wider tires proved to be beneficial. Wider tires reduce the pressure on the soil’s surface and improve floatation.
Research has shown that about 20% of farm owners are susceptible to productivity loss because of compaction. North American and European farmers are especially susceptible; they're often using heavy farming machinery on soil with a high amount of moisture.
“Soil can only withstand so much pressure — whether from compaction or other threats such as continual harvesting, erosion or pollution. Humans must act to reduce pressures on soils, or we risk going the way of the dinosaurs,” said Jess Davies and John Quinton, professors at Lancaster University.