10 Ways for No-Tillers to Beat Compaction Challenges

More axles, lower tire pressure, controlled traffic, cover crops, and a dose of patience can keep compaction from hurting yields.

No-tillers planning to achieve better yields in the next growing season ought to look a little ‘deeper,’ so to speak, than just seed and inputs.

After above-average precipitation hit many states again in 2016, what shape are your fields in after planting, spraying and harvesting?

Pinch-row and subsurface compaction can cause double-digit decreases in crop yields, and the effects of compaction can linger for several years. Some no-tillers might dismiss the threat of compaction because they’re not tilling, but the hard truth is that equipment sizes keep increasing and that puts even more stress on soils.

No-Till Farmer has assembled a “Top 10 List” of ways you can reduce compaction on your farm, potentially helping you reach your yield goals next year.

1 Reduce or Eliminate Tillage. Most No-Till Farmer readers don’t need convincing that tillage is a major contributor to compaction problems. But if you aren’t convinced, consider this.

Continuous moldboard plowing or discing at the same depth will cause tillage pans (compacted layers) just below the depth of tillage in some soils. While tillage affects soil layers at about a foot deep, wheel traffic from equipment can affect deeper layers.


ALL IN ONE. The Tribine Harvester features a combine with a 1,000-bushel grain bin to eliminate the need for a chasing tractor and grain cart, potentially reducing compaction.

Research in the northern Corn Belt from 1988-2002 showed deeply compacted soils depressed corn and soybean yields 5-6% for 12 years, compared with an un-compacted control site — even though…

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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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