Fall rippping

Friday, October 13, 2017

Deep tillage can be a great way to break up subsurface soil compaction and has become a common practice.  It is always worth it to determine if compaction is the problem at hand however.  Each Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture office throughout the province has a soil penetrometer that you can use for free to help you identify compaction.  These handy tools are very easy to use, just contact your local NSDA office or Agriculture Resource Coordinator (ARC) to borrow one.  Compaction layers where resistance exceeds 300 PSI (pounds per square inch) are very difficult for plant roots to penetrate and would indicate that compaction is a limiting factor in your field.

Keep in mind that ripping is only a temporary fix for compaction, and there are best management practices that can help you avoid future compaction.  This can be done by
  • Avoiding operations when the field is wet
  • Minimizing tillage
  • Reducing axle loads
  • Controlling and concentrating traffic patterns
  • Decreasing contact pressure (using wide flotation tires)
  • Traveling less over the field
Forces of heavy loads are transferred deep into the soil, especially when the soil is wet.  Image from Building Soil for Better Crops by F. Magdoff and H. Van Es