Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-SOUND PEST, WATER AND SOIL MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS CROPPING SYSTEMS

Location: Agricultural Systems Research Unit

Title: Repeated freeze-thaw cycle effects on soil compaction in a clay loam in northeastern Montana

Authors
item Jabro, Jalal "jay"
item Iversen, William
item Evans, Robert
item Allen, Brett
item Stevens, William

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 28, 2014
Publication Date: July 12, 2014
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/59389
Citation: Jabro, J.D., Iversen, W.M., Evans, R.G., Allen, B.L., Stevens, W.B. 2014. Repeated freeze-thaw cycle effects on soil compaction in a clay loam in northeastern Montana. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 78(3): 737-744. DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2013.07.0280.

Interpretive Summary: Soil compaction is a global problem due to mechanized modern agricultural systems and is considered one of the most widespread types of soil degradation affecting agricultural land, soil quality and crop production. A 3-yr study was established in fall 2009 to investigate the effects of the dynamics of freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs) on soil compaction in a clay loam. Soil penetration resistance (PR) in frozen compacted treatments was decreased by 67% (from 2.10 MPa to 0.69 MPa) over one winter (November 2009 to April 2010) at the 0 – 30 cm depth due to dynamic effects of frequent FTCs on soil structure. Similarly, in frozen uncompacted treatments, soil PR was decreased by approximately 62% (from 1.34 MPa to 0.51 MPa) thus providing better soil conditions for plant growth. In unfrozen compacted soils, PR was significantly reduced by approximately 52%(from 2.16 MPa to 1.03 MPa) in the top 0 – 30 cm of the soil profile presumably due to the biology of soil and disruptive effects of shrink-swell cycles caused by frequent wetting - drying processes. The results from this study will save growers considerable time, money and energy currently required to alleviate soil compaction using other methods such as sub-soiling and deep tillage. Our findings demonstrated that repeated freeze-thaw cycles can alleviate soil compaction, improve soil structure, alter soil physical quality and create optimal soil conditions required for profitable growth of agricultural crops. We believe that naturally occurring weather patterns provide mechanisms to reverse soil compaction and enhance soil structure through the dynamics of freeze-thaw cycles that occur in soils in Montana and other parts of the country.

Technical Abstract: In recent years, there has been an increased global concern regarding the impact of soil compaction on crop production and soil quality in modern mechanized agricultural farming systems. Freeze-thaw processes influence the physical properties of soil, primarily soil compaction and structure. A 3-yr study was established in fall 2009 to investigate the effects of the dynamics of freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs) on soil compaction in a clay loam. Results showed that frequent FTCs over the winter alleviated a majority of soil compaction at the 0 – 30 cm depth. During winter 2009-2010, soil penetration resistance (PR) in compacted treatments under frozen conditions was reduced by 73, 68, and 59% at the 0 – 10, 10 – 20, and 20 – 30 cm depths, respectively, due to dynamic effects of FTCs on soil structure and particle configuration. In unfrozen compacted soils, PR was significantly reduced by approximately 52% in the top 0 – 30 cm of the soil profile presumably due to the biology of soil and disruptive effects of shrink-swell cycles caused by frequent wetting - drying processes. These results demonstrate that repeated FTCs can alleviate soil compaction, alter soil physical quality and create optimal soil conditions required for profitable growth of agricultural crops. The results from this study will save growers considerable time, money and energy resources currently required to alleviate soil compaction using other methods such as sub-soiling and deep tillage. We conclude that FTCs associated with typical winter weather conditions are the most effective and economical way to alleviate soil compaction, improve soil structure and aggregation through the dynamics of FTCs.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page