Soil tillage encompasses a wide range of actions and activities, yet its goal is singular: to maintain productive conditions in agricultural systems, starting with soil health.
However, the relationship between soil and tillage is quite complex. If not performed with proper methods or suitable machinery, the opposite of the intended goal can occur, diminishing and devaluing the soil's productivity.
Tillage serves multiple purposes. On one hand, it helps control weeds, contributes to the land arrangement, and resolves or prevents soil compaction. On the other hand, it can disrupt the organic matter cycle, favoring mineralization and leading to a decrease in soil fertility.
Soil is a complex matrix composed of inert mineral components like skeletal elements, sand, and silt; colloidal mineral components like clays; and organic substance. Among these, organic colloids, together with clay minerals, form clay-humus complexes.
A soil is considered well-structured when the presence of clays and organic colloids allows the formation of glomerular-shaped aggregates. In discussing soil structure, it's crucial to emphasize the role of organic matter in functionally organizing the mineral particles.
This organization, along with texture, which is the distribution of particle sizes, also determines the quantity and quality of the pores among the aggregates, divided into micropores and macropores. The former, with their small diameters, enable capillary action of water in the soil. The latter, being larger, allow for drainage and water infiltration once micropores are saturated and facilitate air passage when macropores are not filled.
Soil TILLAGE: Understanding Compaction and Solutions
The movement of agricultural machinery across fields causes a loss of porosity between soil aggregates, leading to soil compaction. This, along with erosion, salinity, and urbanization, is a primary cause of soil degradation.
In severe cases, compaction can result in permanent yield losses. The increasing frequency and weight of agricultural machinery are significantly raising the risk of this phenomenon.
Therefore, primary tillagen practices are essential to mitigate the effects of compaction. Equipment with deep-working tools, like chisel plows, subsoilers, decompactors, or aerators, can break up hardpan layers or compacted strata, restoring porosity.
Secondary tillage then helps to break up clods and restore sufficient porosity for plant growth.
Prevention, however, is the most effective tool: using lighter machinery with low-impact propulsion systems, such as wide-section, low-pressure tires or tracks, can reduce compaction risk. It's also important to minimize field traffic, only traversing the soil when it has suitable moisture content and to reduce the intensity of cultivation, favoring conservation tillage over deep plowing when possible.
Although conservation tillage still disrupts soil aggregates and porosity, it has a lesser impact than conventional methods due to surface residue and reduced cultivation intensity. Surface residue also protects the soil from erosion and the disaggregating effect of heavy rain, maintaining pore continuity and functionality throughout the soil profile.
In conclusion, this article has discussed how soil tillage can lead to increased soil compaction. To remedy this, we have suggested a range of machinery and best practices to minimize their impact as much as possible.
Do you have any questions or are curious about the topic? Contact us: our experts are at your complete disposal to answer all your doubts and show you the most suitable Forigo solutions for various soil tillage needs.