Soils consist of organic matter, various-sized soil particles referred to as soil texture (proportion of solid particles, including sand, silt and clay) and pore spaces that contain air and water. The connectivity of soil pores coupled with the size and number of pores is very important for water infiltration, water and nutrient movement within soil and the ability of the soil to hold water. Large, inter-connected soil pore spaces enhance several actions:

  • Water infiltration into soil

  • Water percolation into the root zone and subsoil

  • Air exchange with the atmosphere

Many important biological and chemical processes take place within soil pores that require both water and air.
Reduced pore size and number will affect soil biological and chemical processes, such as the reduced cycling and release of plant available nutrients.

 

Soil compaction changes pore space size and distribution and will increase soil strength. One way to quantify the change is by measuring soil bulk density. This procedure is done by carefully taking a soil core and measuring the diameter and length to determine the volume of the core, then oven drying the core to determine the soil dry weight.
 

Soil bulk density is the dry weight of soil divided by the volume of the soil. It is usually expressed in grams per
cubic centimeter (g/cm3). As the pore space is decreased within a soil, the soil bulk density is increased. Normally, loam to clay loam soils have a bulk density of about 1.3 to 1.4 g/cm3, and sandy loam to loamy sand soils have a bulk density of 1.4 to 1.6 g/cm3. Naturally dense horizons in a soil will have bulk densities of
1.6 g/cm3 or greater, and root growth will be

 

Heavily compacted soils contain few large pores and have a reduced rate of water penetration through the compacted layer. Large soil pores are the most effective in moving water through the soil. When large pores are absent, the hydraulic conductivity of soil (rate water will move through soil) will be greatly reduced.


In addition, the exchange of gases in soil with the atmosphere slows down in compacted soils, causing an increase in the likelihood of aeration-related problems. Soil compaction increases soil strength, which means plant roots must exert greater force to penetrate the compacted layer.

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Soil Compaction

Causes & Management

Soil compaction can be a serious and unnecessary form of soil degradation that can result in increased soil erosion and decreased crop production. Compaction of soil is the compression of soil particles into a smaller volume, which reduces the size of pore space available for air and water. Most soils are composed of about 50 percent solids (sand, silt, clay and organic matter) and about 50 per cent pore spaces.

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Compaction Concerns

Soil compaction can impair water infiltration into soil, crop emergence, root penetration and crop nutrient and water uptake, all of which result in depressed crop yield. Human-induced compaction of agricultural soil can be the result of using tillage equipment during soil cultivation or result from the heavy weight of field equipment. Compacted soils can also be the result of the natural soil  forming processes. 

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Effects of Soil Compaction

Soil compaction can have a number of negative effects on soil quality and crop production including the following:

  • Causes soil pore spaces to become smaller

  • Reduces water infiltration rate into soil root zone and subsoil

  • Decreases the rate that water will penetrate into the soil 

  • Increases the potential for surface water ponding, water runoff, surface soil waterlogging and soil erosion

  • Reduces the ability of a soil to hold water and air, which are necessary for plant root growth and function

  • Reduces crop emergence as a result of soil crusting

  • Impedes root growth and limits the volume of soil explored by roots

  • limits soil exploration by roots and decreases the ability of crops to take up nutrients and water efficiently from soil

  • Reduces crop yield potential

Compacted soil will restrict root growth and penetration into subsoil. This situation can lead to stunted,  drought-stressed plants as a result of restricted water and nutrient uptake, which results in reduced crop  yields.
 

In wetter than normal years, soil compaction can decrease soil aeration and lead to the increased loss of nitrate
nitrogen by denitrification, which is the conversion of plant available nitrate-nitrogen into gaseous nitrogen forms that are lost to the atmosphere. This process occurs when soils are in an anaerobic condition and soil pores are mostly filled with water. Reduced soil aeration can affect root growth and function, and lead to increased risk of crop disease. All these factors result in increased crop stress and yield loss.

Importance of Soil Porosity

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HT10000 Concentrate is available in 5 gallons (2-2.5 gallon totes), 55 gallon drums and 275 gallon totes. 

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