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Plants Are Better Than Subsoilers For Reducing Soil Compaction

By   /  November 27, 2017  /  No Comments

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Here’s an article from November 2014 that puts conventional wisdom on it’s head. Enjoy!

Alan 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.  Sundermeier and his colleagues compacted filed in wet conditions and then compared the differences between treating the compaction with subsoilers and with cover crops. Plots treated with plants ended up producing much better than those treated with steel.

Why? Drilling into compacted soil is like drilling into concrete. It works best if you start with a small drill and then increase in size. That’s just what the roots of plants do, starting small and then growing larger to create space in the soil. Then water and the roots of other plants, will follow the channels created by cover crop roots loosening the soil and creating the pore space that is a part of really good soil.

The video is  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.

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

natglc-logo-1Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.

Save the Date! The 7th National Conference on Grazinglands is December 2 – 5, 2018 in Reno. You’ll want to be there.

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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.

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