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A Wet Harvest and Its Lasting Effects

Repairing harvest ruts this spring - Field Crops
Image Source: Michigan State University

A wet harvest continues to cause problems even in the new year.

While farmers struggled to finish getting crops out of the field, some were forced to enter fields in less than ideal conditions. Wet ground and heavy farm equipment are not typically a desired combination and that coalition may have caused soil compaction in some fields. In preparing for the busy spring season, adding a plan to deal with the damage caused by less than ideal harvest conditions can save you more expense in the long run.

Although rippers have been traditionally used to alleviate soil compaction, they may not provide the best solution if some of the predictions for a wet spring prove to be true. We know now that the soil compaction layer often goes deeper than a ripper has the ability to run. A potential solution to this issue is a deep-rooted cover crop that can begin the process of breaking down all of the soil compaction layers which could have built up over several years. Annual ryegrass and cereal rye are cover crops that grow continuously throughout the winter and can break compaction layers with roots extending deeper than two and a half feet. Radishes and rapeseed are cover crops that can be utilized effectively with acreage exhibiting less pervasive compaction layers.

After the roots of these crops die and begin to decay, the channels they leave behind provide a quality environment for corn roots in the coming growing season. If compaction symptoms are seen in preparation for this spring’s planting season, consider speaking with your SWCD, NRCS, or Purdue Extension ANR Educator to make a plan by implementing cover crops and all the benefits they provide on your operation next year.

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