Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #167390


item Raper, Randy

Submitted to: Terramechanics Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/8/2004
Publication Date: 2/1/2005
Citation: Raper, R.L. 2005. Vehicle traffic impacts on soil. Terramechanics Journal. 42(3-4):259-280.

Interpretive Summary: Producers must operate their agricultural machinery in fields in order to produce their crops. However, the use of tractors, combines, grain wagons, etc. also cause significant soil compaction which can reduce crop yields. This manuscript reviews much of the available literature dealing with the causes and effects of soil compaction caused by vehicle traffic in agricultural fields. It also gives several remedies that producers can use to minimize the effects of vehicle traffic in their soils. Smart management of vehicle traffic can reduce the negative impacts of soil compaction on our American crop production system.

Technical Abstract: Alternate configurations of tires and tracks vary in their ability to generate tractive forces. These tractive elements also vary in the way that they impact the soil with some causing more soil disturbance than others. This soil disturbance includes soil compaction and rut formation which potentially increase soil erosion and runoff. This paper will review a portion of the agricultural research that has been conducted related to soil impacts caused by the use of vehicle traffic in agricultural fields. Recommendations will also be made for ways to minimize the effects of vehicle traffic on soils when trafficking is necessary. These include reducing axle load; reducing tractive element-soil contact stress by using radial tires, duals, and tracks; increasing soil drying prior to traffic; using conservation tillage systems which minimize vehicle traffic across fields; and subsoiling to eliminate compacted soil profiles in crop growth zones. Soil compaction resulting from vehicle traffic may not be able to be completely eliminated, but it can be controlled and reduced through intelligent management of vehicle traffic.