Thoughts Sprout On Tap Roots For Breaking Up Compacted Soils

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When compacted soils become a problem, as they can anywhere in the country, cover crops can be an effective solution, according to experienced no-till farmers. But you need to know which crop will work in your area to provide the kind of long tap roots needed. Visitors to Farmer’s Forum, the message board of No-Till Farmer, offered a number of possibilities recently. We share their ideas here, as well as thoughts about an assortment of other topics.

To pose your own questions to fellow no-tillers, offer your opinions, or just follow the ongoing discussions, visit Farmers Forum at

Cover Crops Vs. Using A Ripper

Has anyone used a cover crop with a large tap root to relieve shallow compaction? I have a problem with some soils that have a compacted layer at about 10 inches deep. I have deep tilled this ground in the past, but it doesn’t seem to solve the problem.

Last year in an extreme drought here in south central South Dakota, I could dig down with a spade, chip through the hard pan and find moisture. I am considering breaking my no-till corn and bean rotation and throwing in some wheat, and following the wheat with some type of cover crop to increase organic matter and to relieve some of this soil tension.

I’ve heard that cowpeas can do this. Is there a certain variety that I need, or is there any other type of crop I can use for this?


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