Canola School: Confronting the topic of compaction

Soil compaction — as many other topics and issues in agriculture — has no simple solution.

Marla Riekman, soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, says in this Canola School episode that soil compaction is “one of the hardest topics to discuss with farmers.”

She says this is because the easiest solution is to stay off the field, which is not something farmers can do in order to properly tend to their crops needs.

“The first thing with soil compaction that people need to understand is that when you have moist soils — when they are near field capacity — that is when you are at your highest risk of compaction.”

Many know of soil compaction, but we don’t understand what exactly happens within the soil.

“So what happens is all the big pores you have in your soil are filled with air, and the tiny little pores between the soil spaces are filled with water. So the water filled pores can’t go anywhere because they don’t squish down. But the big pores filled with air, they squish and compact,” says Reikman. “And when you take those big pores out, you restrict the ability for roots to grow through them. Once you restrict roots you don’t have those fine root hairs that are growing effectively in them, and you start to affect the larger micro-organisms that are trying to move through these soils. And so by doing so it basically can start decreasing yield or affecting the crop negatively.”

Reikman adds that many producers don’t realize that 80 per cent of compaction happens in the first pass.

“If you are going over a field four times in a row, and you consider that after that fourth time, that to be 100 per cent of total compaction, 80 per cent of that happened the very first time you went across it.”

To learn more about soil compaction, check out the video below, filmed at CanolaPalooza in Portage La Prairie on June 22th, 2017: