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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Agricultural Soil and Crop Practices

Author
item Unger, Paul

Submitted to: Yearbook of Science and Technology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 31, 1995
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Compaction occurs in many soils. Compaction mainly is caused by human, animal, or equipment traffic on the surface when the soils are wet. Intense rainfall or irrigation may also cause compaction. Compaction is especially common on sandy soils because they do not shrink while drying and swell while becoming wet. Any compaction may reduce plant production because it can restrict plant root growth and, therefore, prevent roots from extracting the water and nutrients from soil that plants need. Other effects of compaction are reduced water infiltration, poor soil aeration, and poor seedling emergence. Reduction of surface compaction in some soils results from shrinking and swelling due to drying and wetting, freezing and thawing, and biological activities. Normal tillage operations help alleviate near-surface compaction. For reducing compaction deeper in soil, for example, that caused by heavy equipment, heavy loads, and repeated passes on the surface, deep plowing or subsoiling may be needed. Excessiv compaction often can be avoided by doing cultural operations when soil water contents are suitable, limiting heavy traffic to certain areas; and reducing pressures on the soil surface by using more and larger tires inflated to lower pressures.

Technical Abstract: Compaction occurs in many soils. It can be caused by human, animal, or equipment traffic on the surface when the soils are wet; by intense rainfall; and by irrigation. Sandy soils are especially prone to compaction because they experience little natural loosening due to shrinking and swelling caused by drying and wetting. Any compaction may reduce plant productivity because it can reduce the ability of plant roots to grow and proliferate in soil and, therefore, to extract the water and nutrients from soil that plants need. Other effects of compaction are reduced water infiltration, poor soil aeration, and impaired seedling emergence. Surface compaction in some soils is alleviated naturally due to soil shrinking and swelling (due to drying and wetting), freezing and thawing, and biological activities. Normal tillage operations help alleviate near-surface compaction. For alleviating compaction deeper in soil, for example, that caused by heavy equipment, heavy loads, and repeated passes on the surface, deep plowing or subsoiling may be needed. Excessive compaction often can be avoided by performing cultural operations when soil water contents are optimum, restricting traffic of heavy equipment and loads to specified traffic lanes, and reducing pressures at the soil-tire interface by using more and larger tires inflated to lower pressures.

Last Modified: 10/20/2014
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