Spring showers bring May flowers… and planting season. Unfortunately, 2015 brought a bit more spring rains that we originally expected. The Northern Colorado region experienced about 7 inches of rain during the month of May, our ideal planting time. This is almost three times the amount that is expected in previous years. The added rains left our soil profile completely full down to the hard pan which is over four feet deep. When the ground is so enriched with moisture, adequate time must be given before field work can begin so that the soil profile can dry out. Otherwise, if field work begins before ideal conditions, a farmer risks significant compaction issues and even the possibility of getting his tractor stuck in the mud.
Soil compaction is a significant issue for any farming operation. Soil compaction is the process in which stress is applied to the ground layer of soil, displacing the air and water trapped between the soil granules and causing these soil granules to become dense. In farming, dense and compacted soil becomes impermeable for water and other nutrients to reach a growing crop which results in reduced crop growth, harvest yield and overall quality.
All farmers deal with soil compaction issues, regardless of whether they adhere to minimum tillage or conventional tillage practices. In modern farming, tractors alone can cause compaction just due to the heavy weight of the equipment as it passes over the field. A farmer can reduce this effect on the soils by:
- Avoiding repeated wheel traffic over the same path
- Avoid working wet soils
- Using wider tires, dual tires or tracks
- Using lighter weight equipment and implements
- Using inter-row rippers during the season to break up dense soils
- Adhering to good soil management practices
So after each rain this spring, we had to be patient and wait. Then wait some more until our soil profile dried out and we could start field work. Good soil management practices are of the utmost priority for Silver Reef Organic Farms. Good soil conditions ensure that our crops have a successful growing season and we can adhere to being the best stewards of the land.