Your field’s soil is an essential part of the complex equation that results in a crop’s success or failure, or somewhere on the spectrum between the two. But soil health itself is a complex metric, with factors like soil type, compaction, organic matter, microbial life, and previous planting and tilling practices all having interconnecting influences on what is happening in the ground in any given season. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA’s) Field Crop News team has released three resources recently on the topic of soil health.
Soil structure is a key indicator of soil health. The Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) provides a simple framework for quantitatively scoring soil structure quality. It requires only a shovel for extracting a block of soil and a scoring sheet for evaluating it and can be performed in about 10 minutes with a little practice. VESS is also included as an optional module in the Soil Health Assessment and Planning tool (SHAP). |READ MORE
The most recent Ontario field crop report discusses methods and metrics for evaluating soil structure and determining the quality of soil in your field. It specifically looks at the effects of compaction on different soil/tillage layers and bulk density, a standard indicator of soil structure. As density increases plant roots struggle and can even fail to grow through the soil. |READ MORE
Ben Rosser, OMAFRA corn specialist, and his summer assistant Gia Shelp conducted a trial looking at the effects of soil compaction during corn planting. The results? Across all fields, there were no significant yield impacts of trafficked rows compared to rows not near tire traffic. While average yields were different, there was enough background variability that the two rows yielded corn which were statistically similar.
Averaging both row-crop locations (Niagara and Oxford regions), there was a six bushel per acre reduction for rows between two crop tires relative to rows not near tire traffic, but no significant difference between other treatments. In the Niagara region, there was no significant yield effect between the two traffic level variables. However, in the Oxford region, there was significant differences between rows not near crop tires and rows between crop tires. |READ MORE