Compaction Recovery with Cover Crops


Tori Waugh –


We would like to continue the work of exploring compaction recovery between till and no-till treatments and add in cover crops to both treatments to assess the impact that they will have on compaction recovery. Yield loss due to compaction concerns everyone and may be away to introduce cover crops to farmers that may not be interested in soil health, but are having issues with compaction.

Researchers have looked at the effects of tillage (or lack thereof) on compaction recovery and have found that while tillage improves compaction recovery and therefore yield more effectively the first year, it takes 5 years of tillage to recover to a point that no-till can achieve in 3. The reasoning for this is improved biological activity.  It is reasonable to estimate that the introduction of cover crops, because it would improve biological activity would serve to further reduce compaction recovery time, even if the physical impacts of the additional roots don’t serve the same purpose.


There will be 4 sites in total.  Two sites will both be in corn this year and the specific cover crop choice is still to be determined, although will differ in compaction severity (manure tanker vs. headlands row crop tractor w/ grain drill and combine).  The other two sites will be in soys, experiencing headlands row crop tractor with grain drill and combine compaction and cover crop will be rye, seeded in October. All four sites are relatively comparable soil types (Harriston loams, silt loam and clay loam soil types) and will be divided into the following treatment plots, in order: 1) Till, no cover crops, 2) Till, cover crops, 3) No-till, no cover crops, 4) No-till, cover crops. The project will use a penetrometer to measure compaction post-compaction event and then at 1 year intervals there on.