Quick and Easy Worksheet for Assessing Traffic-Induced Soil Compaction Risk

This worksheet gives you a simple, easy-to-use method for assessing the traffic-induced soil compaction risk posed by your field equipment.
Quick and Easy Worksheet for Assessing Traffic-Induced Soil Compaction Risk - Articles

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The purpose of this worksheet is to give you a simple, easy-to-use method for assessing the traffic-induced soil compaction risk posed by your field equipment. You can use the worksheet to evaluate compaction risk for any rig (tractor and towed implement, tractor and integral hitch implement, truck, self-propelled implement, and so forth). You can assess compaction risk by calculating or estimating the following three key values for each rig:

  1. Heaviest axle load (in tons)
  2. Highest tire contact pressure (in pounds per square inch or psi)
  3. Total acres of tracks left by rig per acre of ground covered (percent)

Download the Farm Equipment Soil Compaction Assessment Worksheet . Once you’ve used the worksheet to calculate these values, you can use the information two ways to help you manage compaction risk on your farm:

  1. You can compare the calculated values for your rig with some general guidelines and thresholds. You should keep the axle load below 10 tons—preferably below 6 tons. Contact pressure should be limited as much as possible. Contact pressure exceeding 30 psi is too high for farm fields. Decreasing contact pressure by making tires wider increases the percentage of the field that is trafficked. This can give you a general idea of the overall level of compaction risk posed by your equipment.
  2. You can compare calculated values for different rigs to help you decide which is best for the job in terms of compaction risk. This is by far the most important use for this information. For example, suppose that you are buying a new manure spreader and you must choose between three different designs. You can estimate compaction risk values for each, and then use that information to help you make your selection. Another example involves comparing the same rig with duals versus singles, or with different tire inflation pressures.

More information about the effects of soil compaction and how to avoid it is available in the fact sheets Effects of Soil Compaction and Avoiding Soil Compaction .

Prepared by Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management, Penn State, and Chris Lawrence, USDA-NRCS state agronomist, Virginia.

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