Compaction in a field happens when soils are too wet to be worked. That makes last year an ideal one for creating a compaction problem. The fields were worked and planted wet last spring, the summer remained wet, and the harvest was wet, too.
There are two ways to relieve compaction. Nature uses the freeze and thaw cycle, but it needs several freeze and thaw cycles for this to work. The winter temperatures didn't really allow for that to happen often enough, and where it did the soils hadn't frozen to any great depth because of the excessive snow cover. The other option is deep tillage, usually done on dry soils in the fall. But the harvest was late and the soils weren't dry.
It appears even if the spring is normal the soils would remain too wet to do effective deep tillage this spring. University of Illinois Extension Agronomist Emerson Nafziger says that worries farmers.
"We can worry about it," Nafziger said. "But I think it's a mistake to try to figure that if we just wait long enough until we can drive on the fields and not make too big a tracks that we can pull the chisel or ripper to a 12 inch depth and sort of fix the compaction problem."
A big enough mistake that Nafziger says it would be best to wait until fall to deep till a field. He says not to worry about the compaction so much because trying to fix it under poor conditions might cause more problems than solved.
For more on Nafziger's thoughts on compaction check the Illinois crop production and pest management bulletin online at www.ipm.illinois.edu/bulletin.