Canola School: Fixing Up Harvest Ruts


Wet conditions at harvest inevitably result in a mess, as heavy combines and grain carts leave their mark in the soft soil.

With above normal rainfall extending into harvest in parts of Western Canada, we’re seeing some deep ruts and serious compaction from harvest equipment.

“That wheel traffic compaction can go as deep as three or four feet, so that’s something that can have a lasting impact,” explains Marla Riekman, land management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

She joins Real Ag’s Kelvin Heppner in this Canola School episode to explain what’s happening in the soil beneath the combine tires, and what the options are for managing these ruts.

If you’re driving through water, you likely won’t see much compaction because the soil pores are full of water, Riekman explains. “Whereas if soils are moist, not fully saturated, you can have a lot more difficulty with compaction.”

If the soil is still wet below, work to repair these ruts should be a targeted and light, she says.

“The number one thing is you don’t go in heavy (when it’s wet). If you try to till down into that rut and turn it over, you’re probably tilling into moisture,” she notes. “You’re just going to potentially cause more problems with compaction.”

Rather than pulling out the cultivator, she suggests using a vertical till unit or high-speed shallow disc: “You want to do kind of a tickling of the soil, a light pass where all you’re doing is filling in those ruts again.”

Combine tracks in canola stubble.

While there’s only been limited uptake in Western Canada, cover crops will also help address compaction, and could potentially be seeded while making that light tillage pass, says Riekman.

“The other option, if you happen to have a lot of volunteer crop coming up in your field after harvest, that’s a perfect little cover crop too. Maybe you want to hold off on tilling and let that crop suck up some of that moisture and help stabilize the soil a little bit.”

Check out the video above for more on managing ruts and compaction after harvesting in wet conditions, as well as info on an upcoming Soil Compaction Field Day to be held on September 27th at Ag Canada’s Crop Diversification Centre in Portage la Prairie.

Watch more Canola School episodes here.

Related articles on soil compaction:

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