Wheat School: Getting a handle on headland compaction

RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson.

Wheat shows all, especially when it comes to the impact compaction can have on seed planted in to the headlands portion of a field.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School, we catch up with resident agronomist Peter Johnson in a field near Stratford, Ont., as he looks for ways to combat compaction. In this field, Johnson says repeated passes on the headlands by the cultivator, planter, combine, and grain wagon not only produces struggling yellow wheat but it also impacts other crops in the rotation.

When it comes corn and soybeans, there may appear to be a crop on the headlands, but yield maps tell the truth — there’s typically little yield for any crop, Johnson notes.

During the wet fall of 2021, many Ontario growers were forced to plant wheat in difficult conditions, which contributed to compaction. Johnson says many had to “push it” to get their wheat planted, but he believes growers can do a better job and find ways to avoid compaction, even in wet conditions, so they can grow crop on every acre they farm.

In this field, Johnson looks at the impact of centre-fill planters which concentrate weight on the drill. In this case, the gang wheels have a negative impact on wheat emergence and overall performance.

There are ways, however, to help mitigate compaction on headlands. Johnson says more axles and better tires can make a difference. “Let’s get the air pressure down in these tires so that we are under 15 PSI.” Tracks are another option.

“It really comes down to the equipment,” says Johnson. “It doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller so we need more axles, more tires and lower pressures.”

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