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Plants Beat Steel When It Comes To Reducing Soil Compaction

By   /  November 17, 2014  /  4 Comments

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Plant Beat Subsoilers to reduce compactionAlan Sundermeier, a researcher at Ohio State University says, “You can’t solve your problems with steel.  Even with a subsoiler that may have minimal surface disturbance, it’s really not solving the problem. We’re seeing that soil structure can be better solved by using natural rooting systems through cover crops.”

In this video you’ll see the results of their experiments on compaction plots comparing subsoil steel vs. cover crops.  It’s just 4 and a half minutes, but it could change the way you look at soil compaction and what you can and should do about it.  Enjoy!  And stay tuned for additional videos from this great series.

Here’s the link for our tablet readers.

Want one more reason to leave the steel on the lot?  Chip Hines writes about the dangers of “Iron Disease.”

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

4 Comments

  1. Rachel Gilker says:

    Hi all,

    There’s a webinar coming up on this very topic. It looks like a good chance to learn more. Here are the details:

    Dec. 4, 2014: Introducing Radishes into the Organic Dairy Pasture

    Radishes can provide two benefits to the organic dairy pasture: 1) to extend the grazing season with a high energy feedstock, and 2) to provide “bio-drills” by utilizing the tap roots of these plants to address soil compaction. In this webinar, Fay Benson and Liz Burrichter will describe their on-farm research with brassicas, including no-till seeding Daikon Radish into grazing swards.
    Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/788501931974263553

  2. Matt Bomgardner says:

    Last year I had major compaction in a corn field where manure tankers entered and exited the field. There was a noticeable gap where the corn never grew. I intended to subsoil the field after the corn but for some reason or another it didn’t happen. In early September we planted a mixture of tillage radish, triticale and annual ryegrass. After grazing the mixture this spring we planted sorghum sudan grass. I could not see any compaction at the same spot where the corn had problems. I’m now a believer that soil compaction can be relieved by cover crops and that deep ripping isn’t necessary in most cases.

  3. Eric says:

    Why not do both? A combination of crop/cover-crop AND subsoiling/aeration. Can you imagine what would happen then? The perfect root zone for the crop. Air, water infiltration and practically no resistance for deep root penetration and proliferation. I suggest taking a look.
    Why are we looking at conventional cropping systems anyway? Isn’t this primarily a grazing publication?
    I look forward to more of your unbiased information. Thank you.

    • Rachel Gilker says:

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for writing. You raise two good questions: why not both steel and cover crop? and why are we covering cropping systems in On Pasture? To answer the second question first, we have readers who use both pasture and field crops on their farms and ranches.

      As to the question about steel + cover crops, farming is known for its very tight profit margins, and cover cropping has been shown to do the trick necessary (improve soil health) while potentially providing an additional feed source. That’s win-win in our book.
      We’ve scheduled additional articles on the topic in future issues of OP. We’re glad you like our unbiased information. Keep reading! Don’t forget to fill out our survey to help us keep going – free, easy, and you can get a bumper sticker:

      Rachel

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