It’s an all too common problem observed in fields: caked soil forms on the surface, creating a distinctive cracked appearance. Poor water infiltration and seed growth restriction as a result of caked soil can spell trouble in the form of substantially lower crop yields. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent cracked soil from forming. Here are three things you should keep in mind.
Even Water Distribution Matters
Although cracked soil gives the impression of parched land, overwatering is actually a frequent culprit. For this reason, an even and light water distribution can be especially important. Caking often occurs when a field is watered too heavily at once, causing water to pool. This allows some soil particles to float up onto the surface of the water, leaving behind a harder, caked layer once the remaining water absorbs or evaporates. To adjust water application, we recommend using a sprinkler that dispels water in even, small droplets close to the surface.
Watch Out for Clay Composition
Clay often acts like a sponge, absorbing water when it is plentiful, then shrinking as it dries. The drying process can result in those distinctive, hard cracks that can completely prevent plants from pushing up to the surface, undermining crop yield. It’s important to remember that soil exists in gradient layers. Topsoil is the dark, nutrient-rich layer that sits at the top. Topsoil’s rich composition and low clay density make it ideal for water absorption with minimal shrinkage. Aerating and top-dressing this layer with additional microorganism-rich humus soil, such as compost, can help improve your soil’s texture and minimize the risk of clay composition shrinkage.
Minimize Surface Runoff
When soil becomes completely saturated, water–whether irrigated or stormwater–will turn into surface runoff. Soil can then be carried away from your field, stripping it down to the subsoil, which will crack and cake more easily. To minimize surface runoff, consider using a boom irrigation system. These machines help to decentralize water application, creating an even spray of small water droplets rather than high-pressure sprays, improving the water’s infiltration rate.
Contact Berardi Irrigation
With proper guidance, it’s entirely possible to prevent caked, cracked soil from forming and negatively impacting crop yields. At Berardi Irrigation, we would be happy to assist you in setting up a pro-active irrigation solution. Fill out our contact form or call us today at (781) 828-2029 to learn more!