With the rain we have had in the past few weeks, we are all chomping at the bit to get out and get started with harvest. That being said; I want to give my short talk on the risk of compaction that we will experience sometime this coming fall. This whole decision is a balancing act, to say the least; it is where we are looking to reduce harvest loss and protect future impacts to root development and yield if at all possible.
The problem is we become pretty task-oriented this time of year and probably push the envelope as much as if not more than we should. This is not wrong, but we still need to keep the long-term goals of your operation in mind as much as we can. Compaction becomes one of those “pay the band later” kind of problems. We may not even notice until it has caused us the pain. The longer it doesn’t show severe effects it becomes the death by 1,000 paper cuts scenario where it just chips away at yield and doesn’t clamp down hard.
All I am asking is that we pay attention to what is happening where the rubber meets the field and watch for signs that you may be causing a problem. Speaking of rubber, the tires on your equipment both help and hurt us as they relate directly to compaction. The newer tires on today’s tractor with lower inflation requirements can reduce the compaction potential of a 200 hp tractor to that of one with a 50 hp rating or to near zero economic issues. Tractors alone in general only attribute to surface compaction which is easily remedied in most cases. The problem comes in when we take those same size and type of tires and thanks to ASAE design standards our combine is where we have problems. Those tires can carry more weight but the tradeoff is the force that they exert on the soil, and this causes much deeper compaction that is harder for us to remediate. One of the ways you can control this is to control traffic across your fields since 80% of compaction is caused in the first pass, each additional pass does not have a significant effect on additional compaction.
All in all, I am not telling you not to go harvest, I am just asking that if all signs show you can wait a day or half a day, please do. Because as we get to talking about managing nitrogen and water more efficiently in the future for the benefit of your bottom line, compaction plays a huge role in both of those things. All of our decisions are interconnected in your operation, and this one is no exception. Most of all as you get out there and start pushing that envelope, BE SAFE because no field operation is more important than you getting home better than when you left.