Pans can be good news for soils

CONTRARY TO the popular belief that soil pans are bad news, they can be beneficial to soils by reducing compaction further down the profile, according to one expert.

A pan at 20-40cm deep can help protect the subsoil from further compaction, said independent consultant Gordon Spoor, speaking at the Institute of Agricultural Engineers managing soils conference (Nov 3).

“Providing roots and water can get through, then look at them as an advantage. The last thing we want to do is really disturb the pan.”

But growers must make sure crops are rooting below the pan layer and water is infiltrating it by digging test pits, he said.

Without this kind of analysis it will be difficult to assess what effect the pan is having on root growth and soil water movement, he acknowledged.

Reducing soil loading and compaction was a key aspect of good soil management, he said, recommending growers pay attention to tyre pressures and controlling traffic on fields.

Managing tramlines, which can be a major factor in soil erosion was also important, he said.

Intermittently dropping seed rather than completely blocking off coulters when establishing tramlines could benefit soils, he said.

The extra vegetation, while still allowing tramlines to be seen, would help control water erosion and soil loss, he explained.