Crops and Compacting:
Avoid Compacting Wet Soil During Harvest
Harvest season is here, and many are having the same issue year after year. Equipment moving across overly wetted fields leads to soil compaction, making spring tilling a time consuming and arduous process. Deep ruts lead to rough field surfaces and the compacted soil below can make it difficult for next year’s crop to take root. This month’s blog is going to focus on three of the best practices to use during harvest season to prevent field rutting and soil compaction in your field.
Wait until Fields Dry Out
Easier said than done, typically, this tip involves a lot of planning and a little bit of luck. Look at the weather for the entire week before deciding what days you’ll spend the majority of your harvest time in the field. It is best to let your fields dry for a few days after heavy rains to avoid compaction problems. That way, the soil has time to regain pore spacing between the particles of the soil to prepare for the weight of heavy equipment. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If it is impossible to let fields dry completely, use our next two steps to mitigate rutting damage.
Reduce Field Traffic to Kill Compaction
Having excess traffic on wet fields can be extremely detrimental to the topsoil. When using trucks to move equipment, stick to designated lanes for driving. Set parameters for anyone helping with harvest so that traffic areas are distinctly separate from crop areas. The high traffic areas should be concentrated towards the edges of the field to ensure that any soil intended to grow crops has as much chance as possible to create a solid root base in the coming seasons. This also gives you a clear vision on where to focus your tilling efforts come springtime. Additionally, keep an eye on your grain carts. By ensuring they stay on the same paths your combine is taking, you lessen the chances of damaging your topsoil.
Speaking of your grain cart, make sure to unload it frequently. If you’re working on wet, easily compactable soil your grain cart should be emptied before it is full. If you wait too long to empty it, compacting your soil becomes almost a guarantee. Because it is getting heavier with each pass, you may not notice deep ruts before it is too late. If that is the case, you then have to take that overweight grain bin over a lot of good soil before emptying which could lead to severe ruts running through your entire field. Though they tend to quicken the harvest process, avoid grain bin extensions as well. If you are dragging not one, but two completely full, heavy grain bins across your field, your chances of rutting double.
Do you have any other tips farmers could use to make harvest easier and more efficient while eliminating ruts? Leave us a comment and help a fellow harvester. Stay safe and have a productive harvest!