Quantifying Structural Stability of Agricultural Soils in Ontario


Project Description:

Soil compaction and surface crusting degrade soil structure, reducing aeration and root penetration, and ultimately impacting crop performance. With the trend towards larger farms, more massive equipment and increasing unpredictability of climate, the risk of soil compaction increases. In response, many producers are considering track-based implements or remote tire deflation/re-inflation systems on their equipment. The impact of these systems is still not well understood.

High-resolution x-ray CT scanning will be used in this research, in conjunction with infield pressure sensors and soil penetrometers to better understand structural changes under compaction in Ontario soils. In the second component of this research, we will study soil crusting. It is well known that crusting occurs with reduced plant cover and low residue return or manure addition. It is not well understood how soil organic matter composition influences aggregate dispersion. We will use CT scanning, combined with characterization of aggregation stability and associated organic matter, to better understand the relative impact of conventional and alternative rotation and tillage systems on surface crusting in Ontario soils.


  1. Further our understanding of topsoil and subsoil compaction in Ontario by low-pressure wheeled and tracked farm machinery, as influenced by texture, cropping history and moisture status.
  2. Further our understanding of the efficacy of cover crops for the decompaction of topsoil and subsoil in Ontario.
  3. Improve our understanding of surface crusting in agricultural soils of Ontario, under diverse management systems (rotations, tillage, cover crops and tree-based intercropping) in relation to soil organic matter and aggregate stability.

Interested farmers should contact Richard Heck by clicking the “SEARCHING FOR COOPERATORS” heading above.

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