Eagle Ag Consulting

"Revenue Based Agronomy"

Spring Field Preparation

Spring is typically when soil conditions have more moisture and so we want to be concerned about causing compaction. In some areas of the Midwest spring tillage is the only option and so the drier the soils, the better when tilling. Spring or fall, dry soils crack easier and those cracks help shatter the compaction and allow water and roots to penetrate. Growing roots excrete acid to mineralize compounds near them to “free” nutrients for uptake. This acid can also help break down soil colloids to soften the soil and change the structure near that root. Providing cracks for those roots to follow is key.
Keep in mind that you will be planting shortly so be careful not to smear soils. Clay soils smear more. No soil is all sand and so even those can pack. If you think about building a road, you want to use different size particles to pack it best. Soils have 3 primary particle sizes with sand being the largest, silt in the middle and clay being the smallest. Even though you might have mainly one of these soil types, there still is enough size variation to compact.
Check your soil tilth and set your prep tillage accordingly. It’s going to be tempting to be shallow this year thanks to the high cost of fuel. Make sure you are at least deep enough to adequately remove your tractor tracks. We like to have more than 2 inches of soil in those tracks so your planter down pressure doesn’t have to work quite so hard. Our experience is that top corn yields tend to be from guys who field cultivate deeper than most so their early root systems have plenty of loose soil to work with.
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