We talk a lot about having good soil quality. What does that mean exactly for the farmer. When it rains excessively for a couple of days, you'll be in your field a day or two before your neighbors. Roots will penetrate deeper with less energy required, which means more energy goes to grain development. Deeper roots mean more access to moisture and better standablity.
The following are some pictures showing the difference between a quality soil and a poor soil.
This a picture of my garden and a neighboring field. This has been a garden for two years. The field is a corn soybean rotation. It was field cultivated this spring, then planted to seed corn.
This is a shovel in the end rows. I stepped on the shovel with one foot, placing all my weight (260#) on it. It only penetrated 3-4"". This is pretty compacted, with poor water infiltration. Note corn roots generally cannot penetrate more than 300 psi. My estimate is that the shovel had over 350 psi on it.
This picture shows the hole I dug in the end rows. It became impossible to dig after 14"". I had to use the shovel as a pick to chip away the soil. It shows the tillage line about 4"" down. You can see the soil is saturated to that point, after that it is moist, but not wet.
Just for comparison I stepped on the shovel 150 yards out into the field. It did not go in much farther than on the end rows. Also you can see excessive ponding of water signifying poor structure, poor infiltration, and compaction.
This picture shows the shovel in the garden. It slid in all the way very easily with about half my weight applied.
This is the hole dug into the garden. It dug easily to a depth of 21". Note - no saturation of soil.
In the field the shovel only penetrated 4", in the garden the shovel easily penetrated 12". If the shovel cannot penetrate the ground roots will not be able to either.
This picture shows that high quality soil stays aggregated even during heavy rain events.
The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!