How Path Planning Can Help Mitigate Soil Compaction Impacts
Soil compaction is defined as the increase in density of soil as it is compressed. The pores of the soil, which transport water and air through the soil, and vitally, to a plant’s root system, are made smaller.
While the advent of heavy machinery, and its increasing size, has led to great advancements in farm productivity, it has also had a negative effect on the soil. In particular, the weight of machinery and the load it carries contributes to the compaction of the soil, which has a negative impact on soil quality, soil health, and crop yield.
The density of soil is affected by natural causes, such as clay content, the amount of annual precipitation, soil shrinkage due to drying, and climate change. Other human causes of soil compaction include poor soil management practices, working in wet soil, intensive cropping, and to a lesser extent, grazing livestock.
Across the world, soil compaction is understood as one of the most severe forms of soil degradation, reducing the overall volume of soil. It is estimated that approximately 68 million hectares of land is affected by soil compaction globally.
The Effects of Soil Compaction
Studies have shown that soil compaction can lead to a severe decrease in yield. One study showed The increased density of the soil impedes root growth and can cause oxygen deficiency and restricts the movement of water through the soil.
Compacted soil can lead to increased water saturation in the upper layers of the soil, leading to oxygen deficiency. Soil aeration affects the availability of nutrients to the plant. Anaerobic conditions can cause loss of nitrogen through denitrification, decreasing the available nitrogen in the soil.
While the topmost layers of soil are most affected by the tire track or grazing animals, subsoil is impacted by the load of machinery.
Testing Compaction Levels in Soil
Compaction levels will vary between fields, influenced by various factors like drainage, soil texture, and soil strength.
Test soil resistance to penetration with a probe or penetrometer. Compare results with areas that you now are not compacted, such as near fencerows or in fields that are not currently in use.
How to Reduce Soil Compaction
It’s important that farmers take steps to mitigate the effects of soil compaction. Measures include:
- Avoid working the field when it is too wet.
- Decrease wheel load by using broader tires or dual-wheel systems.
- Checking tire pressure on your machines. Iowa State University researchers found that soil farmed with equipment exerting a maximum of 6-psi surface pressure yielded nine more bushels of corn per acre than soil farmed with more conventional equipment exerting 16-psi surface pressure.
- Improving drainage in wet fields.
- Leaving soil covered with vegetation and supplying organic material.
- Reducing overall traffic in the field.
How Launch Pad Can Help Reduce Soil Compaction in Your Fields
With reducing traffic in the field being one of the most important factors in deducing soil compactions, path planning is one of the best tools you have at hand. By using our software solution, Launch Pad, field optimization is achieved by creating, analyzing and exporting path plans, in other words, developing various optimized patterns in which farmers drive their fields during tilling, seeding, spraying and harvest.
Path planning is made simple, allowing you to reduce the number of passes in the field, improve operator synchronization, and increase overall productivity and profit without sacrificing the health of your soil. Using Launch Pad has been proven, globally, to minimize economic and environmental costs while maximizing field efficiency.