managing soil structure

Soil Fertility Soil Structure Life Beneath

Soil structure has to be managed on a site and season specific basis.

However, each farm can implement a simple five point plan to maintain good soil structure for grassland systems.

  1.  Where possible, avoid trafficking, grazing or cultivating land when soils are wet
  2.  Use low ground pressure tyres to reduce the impact of heavy machinery
  3.  Assess soil structure when the topsoil is moist (e.g. in autumn, winter and/or spring) and do this regularly in a planned way
  4. Do not use topsoilers/sward lifters unless there are clear signs of compaction and moisture content is suitable at all working depths.
  5. If mechanical loosening or aerating is needed, match the machine to the compaction depth; for topsoilers/sward lifters, set the working depth to just below the zone of compaction

Good soil structure is important but will not resolve wet areas of the field if the water moving through the topsoil cannot drain away. It is therefore important to check and maintain any drainage systems that have been installed.

Find out more about drainage checks

The most common causes of compaction  on farms are animals and machinery, mostly tractors and heavy cultivation and harvesting equipment.  Preventing compaction in the first place will be much more effective than dealing with it after it has occurred. 

Find out more about preventing compaction

Serious poaching or runoff must be dealt with quickly to meet Cross Compliance rules.

Some types of compaction can be alleviated in existing swards; however, major compaction problems are more commonly tackled as part of a re-seed.  It is essential that all operations to address poor structure are done under the right soil conditions.  Working soilin wet conditions will usually make the problem worse.

Find out more about remediating poor soil structure in grassland