Soil compaction in cropping systems: A review of the nature, causes and possible solutions

M.A. Hamza, Walter Anderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1372 Citations (Scopus)


    Soil compaction is one of the major problems facing modern agriculture. Overuse of machinery, intensive cropping, short crop rotations, intensive grazing and inappropriate soil management leads to compaction. Soil compaction occurs in a wide range of soils and climates. It is exacerbated by low soil organic matter content and use of tillage or grazing at high soil moisture content. Soil compaction increases soil strength and decreases soil physical fertility through decreasing storage and supply of water and nutrients, which leads to additional fertiliser requirement and increasing production cost. A detrimental sequence then occurs of reduced plant growth leading to lower inputs of fresh organic matter to the soil, reduced nutrient recycling and mineralisation, reduced activities of micro-organisms, and increased wear and tear on cultivation machinery. This paper reviews the work related to soil compaction, concentrating on research that has been published in the last 15 years. We discuss the nature and causes of soil compaction and the possible solutions suggested in the literature. Several approaches have been suggested to address the soil compaction problem, which should be applied according to the soil, environment and farming system.The following practical techniques have emerged on how to avoid, delay or prevent soil compaction: (a) reducing pressure on soil either by decreasing axle load and/or increasing the contact area of wheels with the soil; (b) working soil and allowing grazing at optimal soil moisture; (c) reducing the number of passes by farm machinery and the intensity and frequency of grazing; (d) confining traffic to certain areas of the field (controlled traffic); (e) increasing soil organic matter through retention of crop and pasture residues; (f) removing soil compaction by deep ripping in the presence of an aggregating agent; (g) crop rotations that include plants with deep, strong taproots; (h) maintenance of an appropriate base saturation ratio and complete nutrition to meet crop requirements to help the soil/crop system to resist harmful external stresses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)121-145
    JournalSoil & Tillage Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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