When Deep Ripping Might be Your Best Bet (Plus What It Will & Won't Fix)

The struggle to get the crop off in wet conditions has left its scars on fields across parts of Western Canada, leaving farmers with tough decisions on how to manage ruts and soil compaction.

A deep ripper or subsoiler might have a fit in helping fix the damage, says a biosystems engineering professor from the University of Manitoba.

As Ying Chen explains in the interview below, there are several advantages or reasons for subsoiling: it elevates deep compaction and enhances water infiltration, while maintaining surface residue.

The main downside is “it has a high power requirement. You need lots of horsepower,” she notes.

While Chen’s research showed the effects of subsoiling will last for up to three years, results are mixed in showing a correlation between subsoiling and higher yields in subsequent crops. However, she points out there are other potential benefits from improved water infiltration.

“You get the water down to the deep soil instead of flooding on the surface, so that’s another benefit for why farmers should look into it,” she says. “For clay soil, if you’re subsoiling in fall, in the spring you’ll have drier conditions to seed.”

A study co-authored by Chen looking at subsoiling in clay soils of the Red River Valley also associated increased speed of crop emergence, plant density and biomass with the practice.

Fixing the mess made during harvest may also require waiting for soils to dry out, as more shearing and less fracturing tends to occur in wet conditions, as shown in the video below, filmed during a soil compaction workshop in Portage, Man. earlier this fall.

“Drier will have reduced soil disturbance on the surface. You don’t want to see big clods like this. Definitely drier would be better,” says Chen.

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