TractorsUnder­stand and reduce soil compaction

Soil compaction can reduce yields by up to 20%. Mathias Stet­tler and Roger Stirn­i­mann from the Univer­sity of Applied Sciences for Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Food Economics explain what happens during this process and how it can be miti­gated.

A topic which is often discussed in public is the danger that heavy trac­tors and other agri­cul­tural machinery pose to agri­cul­tural land. John Deere has worked inten­sively on how agri­cul­tural machinery can reduce soil compaction. Mathias Stet­tler and Roger Stirn­i­mann from the Univer­sity of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Food Economics explain how soil compaction occurs and what farmers can do about it.

What is soil compaction and how does it evolve?

In order to under­stand soil compaction, you have to know that around half of the soil consists of pores, explains Mr Stet­tler. If soil is compressed too much or if heavy weights exert too much pres­sure, then it will be compacted. This damage means the soil aera­tion, water and nutrient flows no longer func­tion as they should. In addi­tion, there is not enough room for the roots to grow. It is known that soil compaction can lead to a yield reduc­tion of 10-20%. To avoid this, either the tyre contact area must be increased or the vehicle weight.

Mr Stet­tler explains the prin­ci­ples of soil compaction in the video:

Does a small and light tractor cause less soil compaction than a large, heavy tractor?

In prin­ciple, it is true that larger and heavier machines exert higher pres­sure on the ground, explains Mr Stirn­i­mann. However, larger machines also allow larger working widths. As a result, the propor­tion of the ground area that is tracked decreases and the area on which no pres­sure is exerted increases. There are also several ways to reduce ground pres­sure. Large-volume, modern tyres, for example, increase the contact area due to their width and thus reduce the pres­sure on the ground.

The same applies to twin tyres. With the help of suit­able tyres and a tyre pres­sure control system, the contact area when driving on the ground can be increased, thus reducing the pres­sure. Finally, crawler trac­tors should be mentioned, which can reduce the pres­sure on the ground even further thanks to their very large contact area.

In the video, Mr Stirn­i­mann explains what influ­ence the machine working width has on soil compaction: