What’s The Value Of No-Till Fields Damaged By Utility Work?

Company responsiveness may vary, but the financial losses due to compacted or idled no-till ground can definitely be estimated.

Nearly every year, farmers ask how to calculate damages caused to no-till fields by utility construction or maintenance projects so reimbursement can be requested.

This question came up again during the recent 20th annual National No-Tillage Conference in St. Louis, when a Kansas farmer said a pipeline was being constructed across one of his valuable no-till fields.

The farmer wants to be reimbursed for damages that occurred not only during construction, but future damages due to potential problems with compaction, drainage and lower yields. He’s particularly interested in how he might calculate the additional current and future value of no-tilling this ground.

Last fall, another no-tiller stated on the “Farmer’s Forum” on No-Till Farmer’s Web site that he was about to have an electric transmission line built across a long-term no-tilled field. The farmer wanted to ensure sufficient value was calculated for the compaction caused by the construction equipment.

The company planned to erect 200-foot-tall poles with foundations augered 6 to 12 feet wide and up to 60 feet deep.

“I disagree that this can be quickly and easily remedied and isn’t going to cause significant damage or crop loss, especially considering a decade of no-till,” he says.

Crunch The Numbers. Retired Ohio State University ag engineer Randall Reeder, who has spent more than 2 decades studying compaction and its effects on no-till yields, says there indeed is a way to calculate the damage and impacts of utility construction or maintenance.

“Based on our research on soil in Hoytville, Ohio…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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