The compaction of agricultural soils cannot be solved, only managed. As a compressible media, soil travel without causing some collapse of the existing structure is impossible. If left uncorrected, farmers can see up to a 50% reduction in yield from long-term compaction. This chapter will describe the effects of soil compaction on the environment, crop quality, and economic sustainability. The base causes will be examined, along with the engineering designs for vehicles that minimize the problem. The tracks versus tires debate will be thoroughly discussed, and the advantages and disadvantages of each system will be detailed. It will be shown that although tires represent the likely current best economic option for vehicle support, the potential of tracks to reduce compaction has been fully exploited. The advantages of four-wheel drive vehicles in reducing soil compaction will be shown, along with the mitigation potential of independently driven wheels and active soil interaction feedback loops. The design of crop production tillage equipment and tillage tool working points will be explored, along with the concept of critical tillage depth. Equipment for compaction relief will also be discussed, as will the sustainable agricultural protocols of cover crops, crop rotation, and controlled traffic farming.
Part of the book: Sustainable Crop Production