Source: Central Valley Ag

The blessings and the curse of fall moisture. On one side, for those of us with Wheat, Alfalfa, or cover crops the moisture that we have received this fall sets us up for great overwintering conditions and good growth next spring. For the rest of us, it was but yet another hurdle to clear in the 2018 growing season. Most all of us, myself included, lost our patience during the end of September and early October with the wet conditions that wouldn’t exit our area. And as soon as we could get back into the field, there we were, mud on the tires, loading trucks on the road, back at it again. We all know of the compaction and soil structure damage that was not only possible, but likely. Even with that information gnawing at the frontal lobe area of our brain, we all collectively made the decision to proceed.

For those of you that haven’t scratched beneath the surface lately, our soil profile is still pretty full in most soils. It is full enough that fall tillage may not be the best idea in the world right now either. SO then why in the world would I start talking about ripping? (I’m sorry, but I am not going to use the term “compaction remediation” every time I could just say ripping instead.) Because there will come a point in time where it is appropriate to rip, it may or may not be this fall. It might not even be in the spring, but I know we will have a window to do it within sooner or later.

So I ask for your forgiveness in this, but I want to make sure you all understand the cycle of compaction. In a normal healthy cubic foot of the soil you stand on in the field, we should have about half of that cubic foot as soil, and the other half organic matter, air, and water. When we run heavy equipment across that soil, we compact that pore space; it just happens to be worse when it is wet. Once the soil reaches a level of 300 psi of force to go through the ground, roots can no longer punch through the soil. So to date, the only way that you can predictably and reliably shatter compaction that is greater than 300 psi is with cold hard steel. That is why we see tillage radishes pushing up out of the ground, they have hit a compaction layer they can’t push through.

But here is my challenge to you. How many of you have ever grabbed a tile spade or shovel and dug behind your ripper? When I asked that questions to a hundred and some odd people at our Innovation event in Norfolk this summer, not a single hand went up. I know I never had before that day. When we removed the fractured and loose soil, there was quite a story to be told. We had replaced two points on a five shank ripper with 360 Bullet points. These points have a design that is supposed to fracture far more soil than traditional points. What we found was that they do exactly what they promise. On the right-hand side the area between the points was equal to the area the points fractured, so for every 15” of fracture, there was 15” left undisturbed. Our soil was 300 to 340 psi before we ripped. After the ripper we were still 300 psi between the ripper points.

On the left-hand side where the 360 Bullet had been used there was still a ridge of soil, about 8” wide in this case. However, that ridge fell apart when we hit it with the compaction tester, and we could not get a reading over 70 psi in that area.

So the take-home message today is, first, make sure you know when you need to put steel to soil, and second, know the quality of the job you're doing. Our ACS equipment team or your trusted advisor are always there to help, and digging behind your ripper is no exception. Ripping a field is not cheap, and it takes time. Why invest time and money in doing part of the job you are after. Yes, 360 Bullet does cost more than traditional points, they also do a lot more. So if “compaction remediation” is in your not so distant future, do your homework and evaluate your results before you go all in.