When planting season begins, it always seems like a race to get as much seed in the ground as quickly as you can. It is disappointing when conditions are not favorable to get planting done. It is extra frustrating when you see that your neighbor is able to get in the field, and you are not.
More often than not, this difference in time to enter the field can come down to one factor: aggregate stability.
How does aggregate stability factor into quicker field entry?
- Better aggregate stability means better water infiltration, and better water infiltration leads to increased yield. This is especially true in a region like Nebraska, where the most limiting factor is moisture availability to a crop. When plants can absorb and store more water, it limits the amount of work they have to do to find it. This will allow the crops to better prosper to reach the best yield.
- Better aggregate stability also means soil is more adaptable to moisture. When conducting aggregate stability tests by submerging a cube of soil in water, the sample with the better aggregation sticks together longer. What does that mean for the long run in your field? This can be the difference in planting on May 15 vs. May 18. Soil with this aggregation is able to contain more water without falling apart, allowing for a spongy effect. This keeps the soil particles together instead of breaking apart and making a muddy track across the field.
- Built in pore space is often overlooked but is also an important piece to good aggregate stability. These pore spaces are usually created by earthworms, roots, and other critters in the soil. They also add to the ability to hold more water. This creates a better environment for oxygen to filter in the soil. The more oxygen transfer in the soil, the better it can mineralize and convert the already present nutrients into a plant available form.
Universally, there are no detrimental effects to building aggregate stability. There are multiple ways to address and show how aggregate stability has positive effects in soil; however, it is awfully hard to come up with even one negative impact of managing a field to include better aggregation.