All-year approach to soil compaction

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Correcting compaction can be done all-year-round says soil specialist Mark Tripney of Soil & Nutrient management ISoils.

“The best time to aerate is whenever ground conditions allow and you have the time,” he said in a release issued by AHDB. “Unfortunately, many grassland managers are put off subsoiling, or aerating because they believe the window of opportunity is so small.

“Clearly, using the wrong machine in the wrong conditions causes problems – heavy clay, for instance, will smear in very wet conditions. But if the window is too narrow, you’ve got the wrong aerator because aeration is OK at any time of year, as long as ground conditions allow.”

He points out that cheaper, lightweight aerators on the market can’t penetrate compacted, or very dry soils and have to travel slowly or else they flick stones, adding that the best models are heavier, roller-type aerators which puncture holes in the top 10–15 cm (4–6”) of soil, achieving good penetration.

“Too many people get hung up about machine spec, or superficial surface damage,” he said, “and the result is that they do nothing – which is far worse.”

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