Keep an eye out for compaction
Yet another week has passed with little or no growth and crops appear to have retreated into the ground rather than increasing leaf mass.
Conditions have improved with some good drying by day, but ground is still very sticky and soft in many places.
Over the past week, I have been looking intensively at soils to determine if this resource is proving to be a blockage to high yields. Blockage may be a strong word as soils are the key building block to yields. But it must be asked if there is anything we can do to increase the soil's capacity for crops to deliver yield.
Many of us can focus on the conditions close to the surface and modify machinery and practices to achieve the result.
Soils have taken a hammering from harvesting in the wet weather to planting and operating machinery in less-than-ideal conditions during cultivations. Soils have indeed suffered but can we ignore the problems and hope soils will repair themselves? All good tillage farmers know the answer to this.
Repairing this damage is not easy. A compaction layer (cultivation/plough pan) can exist at relatively shallow (7-8 inches) depths but equally can be as deep as 14 inches. In many cases a plough will not be capable of breaking this compacted layer.
In fact, ploughing land when wet (watch for smearing as the sod is turned over) will also cause smearing at the ploughing depth and this will only add to a pan/ compacted layer, if present.
Assessing problem fields and identifying the exact cause of lower yields may not be as difficult as you might think. Digging test holes with a spade, or possibly with a digger, will allow assessment and identification of the depth of a compacted layer in the soil profile. It can also give an insight into the structure of the top soil.