Subsoiling–To Do or Not To Do. That is the Question.

To Do or Not to Do. That is the Question.

The line from Shakespeare was “To be or not to be, that is the question.” When it comes to subsoiling, the wording becomes “To do it or not to do it. That is the question.” The staff at AGVISE is often asked if it pays to subsoil and the research is still coming in. In the local area, I have two very close farmer friends in North Dakota who have subsoiled many fields in the last few years. I had the opportunity to discuss subsoiling with both of them recently. Here are their views.

One of my friends is going to continue to subsoil fields this fall if his workload allows. He feels subsoiled fields dry out earlier in the spring and he gets on them earlier than non-subsoiled fields. I asked him if he had any yield data or side-by-side comparisons to share, but he does not at this time. He has subsoiled a number a fields over the last few years and he plans to continue to do so. He feels that he is getting a real benefit from subsoiling by planting earlier. He also feels the yields are better and soil absorbs water better.

My other friend from Northwood is not so sure about subsoiling. Last fall he subsoiled 10 to 20 acres on at least 10 fields. In one corn field, where he subsoiled about 20 acres, there is a problem. This field has a good stand, but received excessive rainfall in June. In the non-subsoiled area of the field the excessive rain seemed to run off while in the subsoiled area of the field the root zone became saturated with water. The corn in the subsoiled area is very yellow and stunted. The non-subsoiled area looks much better. It is already apparent there will be severe yield loss in the subsoiled area of this field.

His other negative experience was during cultivation of row crops in fields with rolling hills. Again, excessive rain was part of the problem. The ravines between the hills were very wet. At cultivation, they could raise the cultivator when crossing the ravines in non-subsoiled areas and cross to higher ground. In the subsoiled area of the field, he got stuck crossing the ravines. The subsoiled area appeared to hold more of the excessive water they received. They also had a more difficult time crossing the wet ravines with the sprayer in subsoiled areas. He has a yield monitor on one combine and will hopefully share some yield data with me after harvest. I will share this information in future newsletters. I do not think he will subsoil more fields until he reviews the yield data this fall. His experience so far in 2003 is not very positive.

I think the jury is still out regarding the benefits of subsoiling in this area. More University research is coming and I think telling farmers who are interested in subsoiling to do it on limited acres is a good idea. However, be cautious, there are thorns in the roses!