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Why You Should Avoid Tilling and Planting Wet Soils

Back in 1998, singer Sheryl Crow released a song called My Favorite Mistake. If she switched the song’s focus from relationships to farming around wet soils, she’d likely have a hit called A Common Mistake. That’s because a mistake commonly made each year by farmers is tilling and planting wet soils.

“I can’t tell you how many times that tillage passes made while the soils are wet have led to horizontal compaction layers,” says A.J.Woodyard, BASF technical crop production specialist. “That affects everything for the rest of the year.”

It’s understandable why this mistake is made. If you’re behind the 8-ball and have acres to plant the day before a 10-day forecast of continual rain, planting often wins out.

This summer, though, go out to your fields and make some root digs. These can reveal consequences of working wet fields and may give you insight on how to minimize this in coming years. Congested “Mohawk” roots and shallow root systems that can’t penetrate subsoil due to compacted hardpan are signs fields were worked and planted under excessively wet conditions.

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