Let No-Till Reduce Compaction

Rather than causing major compaction concerns, Lloyd Murdock credits long-term no-till with being able to solve many of your more troublesome soil worries. That’s what the University of Kentucky soil scientist learned from a recent 5-year study that looked at no-till and soil compaction as reported in a recent Soybean Digest article.

While some farmers have felt that you get just as much compaction in no-till as with conventional tillage, the Princeton, Ky., based researcher says you can’t expect to rely on tillage to overcome compaction concerns. In fact, tillage often makes compaction worse.

No-Tilling Pluses

With heavy traffic under wet conditions, Murdock says no-tilled soils are much more resistant to compaction and rebound more quickly than where conventional tillage is used. The reason is that no-till increases soil organic matter dramatically, which increases the number of earthworms that tunnel throughout the soil. In addition, no-till increases many other valuable soil biological activities.

Since soil pores in no-tilled soils aren’t destroyed by tillage, Murdock says the result is improved soil structure with continuous no-till. In fact, no-tilled soils become strong enough to reduce crushing, which can lead to excessive compaction. Since no-tilled soils are firmer, they can also carry heavier equipment loads when compared with conventional tillage without resulting in costly compaction.

In Murdock’s study, some soils were severely compacted to a depth of 12 inches while others were left untouched. In the compacted plots, the soil was disced to remove compaction to a depth of 6 inches. However, the…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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