Beating Heavy Clay and Wet Soils

Heavy clay and variable to wet soils present a conundrum – while they often need the closest management, they are at the same time the most challenging to manage. Establishing a crop in wet soils is difficult but all the more crucial, because building the health of heavier soils requires constant infusions of organic matter as well as living roots that can support soil life. Crops like corn are extremely reliant on mycorrhizal fungi for their roots to access soil nutrients, but beneficial soil organisms often have trouble establishing themselves in saturated soils. And soil structure definitely suffers in unplanted wet ground. The more you can build up structure and aggregation with diverse roots and soil organic matter, the more you can improve the drainage and carrying capacity of your heavy soil. What features allow a crop to survive wet conditions and heavy soils? Generally, a branching or laterally spreading plant and root structure that remains in the upper soil regions but can dig deep for moisture and nutrients if it has to. White clovers fall in this category, because they spread by stolons, branching stems along the soil surface. Others, like reed canarygrass or Kentucky bluegrass, spread to form a sod by branching rhizomes (laterally spreading underground shoots). Tap rooted species like alfalfas, red clovers, brassicas, and many other broadleaf crops are better adapted to droughty conditions or well-drained soils, although once established they can be very

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2 thoughts on “Beating Heavy Clay and Wet Soils

  1. A spreading Red Clover. Amazing! I knew of a Spreading BFT that was released a while ago called Steadfast, but it is not longer available because it did poorly in yield trials. A spreading Red Clover may be better yet!

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