Title: Field evaluation of traffic-induced compaction and its potential impact on soil physical characteristics and crop yield.
Agriculture trafficability has emerged a serious issue due to wet weather in recent years. Traffic compaction is one of the main factors affecting crop productivity within mid-west US agriculture, and has significant although less quantified impacts on the whole-of-farm system. This suggests that the potential benefits of no-tillage (NT), integrated livestock grazing (ICLs), cover cropping or diversified crop rotation, which represents the conservation practices of any cropping systems are not fully realized. The fields with no crop residue or where traffic is not controlled, the area trafficked (driven over) by heavy wheels during seeding, spraying, harvesting and materials handling operations is rarely less than 50% of field area, even in NT grain production. This increased risk of subsoil compaction due to heavy vehicles may exacerbate under heavy-textured soils, which therefore increased concerns over the long-term sustainability of the cropping systems.
This project will target producers who are facing trafficability related issues in their fields. The proposed objectives are to evaluate and understand wheel-induced soil compaction and their impacts on crop performance, and to demonstrate and educate the producers, students and research professionals during the 2-yr project duration. Our study will be demonstrated on producer farms with different pairs of treatments (but not limited to) that include: conventional till vs. NT, cover crops vs. no-cover crops, residue removal vs. residue returned, integrated crop-livestock system vs. corn-soybean system, diverse rotation vs monoculture system. Our aim is to understand mechanisms of compaction that could be used as a benchmark for execution of management to fix trafficability problems. Further, potential restoration plans of trafficability will also be discussed and demonstrated with the help of NRCS, landowners, and other stakeholders to improve land management with minimum wheel-traffic. The practicality and learning knowledge of wheel-induced compaction will be evaluated on base of enthusiastic farmer adoption.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our project has both research and education category. We will conduct research relative to traffic-induced compaction on soil properties and use that information to educate students and farmers, share information with NRCS people, stakeholder and certified crop advisors' through extension by using media devices such as news article and publications and demonstration trials. We expect to learn about effect of wheel-induced compaction on soil properties and crop yield under different management comparisons (learning from producers’ experience and by onsite demonstrated cropping systems). Results from these managed systems will be utilized to execute some action plans on wheel traffic affected sites through demonstration, education modules for extension and thereby opening a pathway to future traffic induced compaction research. Trafficability, if not managed, can be a serious problem in future even under no-till and other diverse cropping systems, especially under predicted wet weather conditions and so thereby farmers needs to be made aware and will learn about how much and at what extent this trafficability can cost in terms of soil degradation and economic return. At last, surveys will be conducted and used as a medium to understand producers’ concerns and feedback as well as one of our proposed method of project evaluation.