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New tools to measure soil compaction

An ag engineer says soil compaction issues are more likely this spring because much of the Midwest is wetter than normal.

Innoquest President Bill Hughes tells Brownfield margins are already tight and being too anxious to get into fields with less than ideal conditions can lead to compaction issues and lower yields.  He says most compaction can occur on about 10 percent of fields in the wheel tacks of heavy equipment.  “The soil pores are collapsed and that is what keeps water from moving through it, makes it difficult to penetrate into the soil, and also makes it difficult for oxygen or CO2 to get in and out of the soil.”  Soil compaction, on average, causes 20 percent yield losses.  Hughes says deep tillage can help break up the soil, along with freeze and thaw cycles, but it can take several growing seasons to improve fields.

His company has developed an electronic compaction meter which can help farmers and agronomists track soil compaction.  “You want the reading to be under 200 PSI for good drainage and good root growth.”  Hughes says it’s best to measure compaction in the middle of the season when roots are established to identify fields that need more management.

AUDIO: Interview with Bill Hughes

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