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News Release

Caution Advised Planting into Wet Soils

Colette Kessler, State Public Affairs Officer (605) 220-1765

Caution Advised Planting into Wet Soils

NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), Huron, S.D., April 1, 2019 – Farmers in parts of South Dakota are facing record moisture levels this planting season. Planting into wet fields before soil conditions are ready is cause for concern. “It is important for producers to proceed with caution when soils are wet,” says Eric Barsness, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Agronomist, Brookings, South Dakota, “Producers planting into wet soils will likely create sidewall compaction or may cause soil compaction, resulting in damages that will take years to repair.”

 "Fields with good soil structure will be some of the earliest to be ready for planting," says Barsness, “Farmers planting concerns are lessened when good soil structure is present," he says, “Good soil structure will hold up equipment, lessen traffic impacts, and allow the soil to be ready for planting."

 Barsness commented that there are ways to improve field readiness in future years by reducing tillage, planting cover crops, and reducing heavy traffic over the same ground. "Aerial seeding cereal rye in late summer is a way farmers are working cover crops into their rotations," says Barsness, "Rye in the spring is good moisture management, but patience is key.” 

Another way, according to Barsness, is to include small grains in a rotation. "The fibrous root system of small grains will build soil aggregates," says Barsness, "Then following up with a multi-species cover crop will improve soil structure."  

Barsness recommends taking a spade and digging into the soil to evaluate soil structure. "If the soil appears granular at the surface and blocky below, it has good structure," he says. “When soil is powdery on top and plate-like below, it is lacking in soil structure and will benefit from the basics of soil health--practices that build soil structure."

A basic method to improve soil structure is to reduce soil disturbance, Barsness adds. "Tillage passes reduce pore space between soil particles, increasing bulk density, making the risk for compaction the greatest when the soil is wet."

The NRCS offers free technical guidance on practices, including transition from tillage to no-till systems, crop rotations, cover crop seed selection and seeding rates. Please call for your free consultation now. Please visit USDA NRCS Service Center for assistance.


Photo shows the comparison of unhealthy soil and healthy soil