RealAg LIVE! with Marla Riekman on spring soil issues

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Her twitter handle is @MBsoilsleuth for a reason. Our guest for today’s RealAg LIVE! is a soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development.

Marla Riekman joins our host Kara Oosterhuis to talk about all things soil compaction, what happens if a downpour arrives at a super dry soil, fertility in a dry year, and more.

RealAg LIVE! streams every weekday at 3 pm E on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter!


  • Soil erosion. It’s been really bad in Southern Alberta. Tillage at the right time could turn up a bit of the moist soil and could stop tillage in the moment. There’s a big BUT with that, if you don’t get any rain… you’re hooped.
  • Compaction: you can’t compact a soil if it has the strength to withstand pressure (when it’s dry); when there’s moisture down below, it can still be a problem
  • Make sure the tractor is well ballasted, make sure the pressure from equipment is spread evenly
  • Tracks vs tires debate
  • Grain carts are getting heavier and heavier
  • Decrease your axel load whenever possible. Deeper compaction… can’t be fixed. 10 per cent yield loss
  • Whatever your tire pressure is at, there’s a general rule that the actual pressure placed on the soil isĀ  one to two psi higher than what your tire pressure is.
  • If you can park your tractor on a flat surface, and can get your finger nail underneath… your tire isn’t at a low enough pressure
  • Clay soils typically have a better ability to compress or compact. They’ve got small pore spaces and big pore spaces get crushed.
  • Water movement?!
  • Can you do deep tillage to fix the problem? Marla has been dealing with this for 13 years. In the last year was her first time to recommend deep tillage because it was a SAND textured soil (that’s uber important everyone)
  • Marla grew up north of Saskatoon and when she started her studies at University of Manitoba, “too much water” didn’t make sense.
  • Vertisols y’all
  • What about a downpour on super dry soil? It doesn’t mean that water will move in. Then we’ve got a crusty the clown situation after it’s all said and done
  • Soil fertility? Seed safety with starter fertilizer. The risk of seedling damage is a lot higher in a dry year. Splitting your fert application? Probably a good idea
  • Is it better to go over the field twice though? Narrow, with a sprayer, spread over a wider area might not track the field as much as during seeding
  • Volatilization: what kind of fertilizer are you putting down? Banding is a-okay. If you’re broadcasting you need to protect it somehow or it needs a bit of rain. Never leave it on the surface of moist or damp condition soils.
  • Every time you’re in the tractor, Marla suggests thinking about what steps you can take to decrease impacts on the soil. With some thinking ahead, the long-term management decisions will really help your soil

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