Crunch time: Soil compaction during harvesting

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COLUMBUS – The lingering effects of this summer’s excessive rainfall will be felt for a long time.

Frequent rains kept the soil moisture high in many fields. Now, according to Randall Reeder, OSU ag engineer, machinery traffic for harvesting silage and hay may cause more compaction problems than in a normal August and September.

Surface compaction. “Surface compaction is the main problem with this relatively light machinery,” Reeder said. “At least it’s light compared to most combines and grain carts.”

One solution is to minimize pressure on the soil by minimizing tire inflation pressure.

Minimize does not mean to go below the correct pressure for the load, Reeder said, but many farm tires are overinflated so checking the pressure can make a difference with no cost.

On tractors, remove any excess weights that are only needed for heavy tillage work.

A little lighter. Reeder also recommends stopping with only a half or three-quarter load in forage fields where you know compaction can be a problem.

If this applies to all fields, you could reduce tire inflation accordingly. Since tire inflation recommendations are for worst-case situations (full load, at highway speeds) reducing the maximum load, and perhaps keeping to a lower speed for road travel can allow a lower correct pressure.

The lower pressure can also have a slight benefit with less rutting and lower rolling resistance.

Switching to bigger tires or rubber tracks or adding duals are also aids for minimizing compaction, Reeder said.

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