Fall Tillage for Compaction Relief

Some fields need to be worked to alleviate compacted soil.

Published on: Oct 4, 2010

It rained a lot last year - and this year too, so the soils at planting weren't in the best condition. Now the corn harvest is moving quickly and University of Illinois Agronomist Emerson Nafziger says farmers should be thinking about what to do about some of those rutted and compacted areas that have developed over the last two years.

"We haven't had the chance to do a lot of good fall tillage, or compaction relief we'll call it, in the last few years so people are very interested in doing that," Nafziger said. "It certainly doesn't mean that we need to go out and deep rip every field, but there are fields where compaction has accumulated. Most of us know where those are and I think this fall would be a good time to try to do that."

Many ruts were created last fall as the combines moved through saturated fields trying to bring in the crop. Compacted soils happen when the air is squeezed out of them, not when the water is moved around. Nafziger says those ruts, quite likely already filled in and leveled off, probably do not need a deep ripping.

"So the mud that we pushed out of those tracks that we made a year ago wasn't compacted and when we put it back in it probably functioned more or less like normal soil," Nafziger said. "However most fields where we didn't make tracks we did make compaction and we weren't able to relieve that this spring. So a lot of the compaction we created in 2009 was still with us in the spring of 2010 and is still with us today."

He says not at eight inches deep, but something more on the order of 12 to 15 inches below the soil surface. Nafziger says it'll take a lot power to reach that deep into the profile, but it should be worth it.