Persistently wet fields can cause farming delays and damage soil and plant health.Overview 

Many Ohio soils have heavy clay contents which can lead to slow drainage and standing water during wet periods. Wet conditions can lead to nutrient loss through erosion or biological denitrification; poor plant growth or death; and reduced access to the field. 

Key Strategies

Increase organic matter. 

Increased soil organic matter enhances your soil's ability to absorb water, leading to less water stress during both dry and wet periods. This can be achieved by:

  • Incorporate compost, manures, or other stable organic materials.
  • Grow and incorporate a high biomass cover crop. 
  • Add a perennial crop to your rotation. 
  • Add a sod crop to your rotation. 
  • Reduce tillage to provide less disturbance to soil biota and structure.

Avoid Soil compaction

Working your soils while wet can lead to soil compaction, which will intensify drainage problems. Subsoil compaction is especially damaging and can cause permanent damage to fields.

  • Avoid working soil or running heavy equipment on wet fields. If the soil does not crumble when rolled into a 1/8inch thread, it is too wet to work on.
  • If you must run equipment in wet conditions, keep the axle load under 6-tons to avoid subsoil compaction. This can be done by increasing the number of axles on your equipment, or by reducing your load.
  • Avoid topsoil compaction by reducing the contact pressure from your equipment tires. Specialized tires (e.g., flotation tires, radial-ply, etc) are available to help with this or you can simply lower the tire pressure.
  • Other strategies: run equipment faster, reduce the number of passes, or concentrate traffic to lower the percentage of the field impacted.
  • Increased organic residues on the soil surface and increased organic matter throughout the soil profile will also make soil less prone to compaction. 

Physical Drainage Improvements

In extreme cases, physical drainage solutions may be needed to move excess water from fields. Multiple strategies are available to accomplish this while minimizing erosion and nutrient loss.