What is Soil Compaction?

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The level at which soil particles are compressed together resulting in reduced pore space between them, which can impede root growth. Soil compaction can be caused by low organic matter levels, poor structure, heavier texture, dispersion caused by low calcium levels versus sodium and magnesium, tillage and traffic.

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Title Source Resource type and date Short Summary
Soil Compaction: The Silent Thief University of Missouri Extension Webpage

Oct 1993

Generally, a good soil for crop production contains about 25 percent water and 25 percent air by volume. This 50 percent is referred to as pore space. The remaining 50 percent consists of soil particles. Anything, for example tillage and wheel traffic, that reduces pore space results in a dense soil with poor internal drainage and reduced aeration.
Soil compaction University of Minnesota Extension Extension Webpage



Improving soil structure is the best defense against soil compaction. A well-structured soil holds and conducts the water, nutrients and air necessary for healthy plant root activity.

Soil compaction North Dakota State University Extension Webpage



Soil compaction reduces the total pores space of a soil, limited pore space is restrictive to air and water movement throughout the soil. Compaction can be caused by tillage, wheel traffic, crop rotation, or raindrop impact.

Soil Health Demonstration: Compaction Soil Health Nexus How-to Video

May 2019

Charles Ellis from University of Missouri Extension shows how to analyze soil compaction.

Soil Health Assessment: Soil Core Test Soil Health Nexus How-to Video

May 2019

Todd Lorenz with University of Missouri Extension shows how to use a core sampler instead of a soil pit.

On-Farm Soil Monitoring for Water Resource Protection: Farm Assessment for Water Resource Protection Purdue University Extension Publication
Dec 2003
These five on-farm soil monitoring methods are intended to replace analytical soil tests. These monitoring methods and indicators include: Water infiltration rate, earthworm count, soil aggregate stability, penetration compaction, and plant and crop residue cover.
How to Understand and Interpret Soil Health Tests Purdue University Extension Publication
Jun 2018

Purdue and CCSI did some research using some commercial soil health tests. This document describes some descriptions and guidelines that came out of doing that work.

Title Source Resource type and date Short Summary
Soil Quality Information Penn State Extension Webpage

Aug 2012


Healthy soils yield healthy crops, But what is healthy soil and how do we achieve it?

This page reviewed by Liz Schultheis, Joe Rorick, and Walt Sell.

Last reviewed 10/1/19