Soil compaction can be naturally occurring, such as found in layered soils, or can be developed over time due to tractor traffic and tillage equipment. Sometimes called hardpan, a layer of compacted soil inhibits water and air infiltration into the soil, and can alter the soil biology beneath the compaction.
Compaction from cultivation practices, a combination of equipment traffic and tillage over time, is frequently found 10" to 12" below the surface, and can be 2" or more thick.
Compaction forms what is sometimes called a perched water table, in wet conditions. Water does not easily penetrate compacted soils, especially when a significant clay fraction is present.
The result can be reduced soil moisture content, soil loss through erosion, waterlogged soils in heavy rains that can drown plants, and anaerobic soil conditions where plant pathogens and diseases get a foothold.
Cover Crops Beat Compaction
No-till farmers have been convinced of the benefits of the approach that "less steel is better for the soil," for decades.
Conventional farmers are beginning to experiment more with cover crops and seeing for themselves how plants like Tillage Radish®, RootMax® Deep Root Annual Ryegrass and other important cover crops help alleviate compacted soils.
These deep rooting plants open channels through compacted layers, especially the Tillage Radish, which was selected for its highly aggressive single taproot that create open channels for air and water to penetrate compacted layers.
The Deep Root Technology™ behind Tillage RootMax® annual ryegrass, which grows up to 80% deeper than other ryegrasses, also brings great soil-building properties that extend deep into the root zone, helping to break up compaction.
The result is great moisture absorption, better moisture retention, better air and water movement deeper in the soil profile, and enhances soil biology as compaction is increasingly relieved year over year.