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AP31 3PL mid sized plough deep ripping behind new holland tractor

Deep Ripping Benefits: Shattering Subsoil Compaction

Deep ripping can lead to increased crop yields and healthier soil. In this guide, we explore the benefits of deep ripping for improved crop productivity.
compacted soil on deep ripper shanks

The Problem of Soil Compaction

Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are pressed together, often due to heavy farm machinery passes, the downward pressure of livestock, or stress from long dry periods, reducing the pore spaces between them. This poor soil structure causes waterlogging and prevents deep, healthy root growth as plants struggle to access the required nutrients and moisture in the soil. Compacted soil, known as "hardpans," is very dense and makes it harder for water, air, and plant roots to penetrate, which is essential for healthy crop establishment. Other effects of compaction include reduced soil micro-organisms and an increased risk of topsoil erosion.

AP71 Deep Ripper shattering soil compaction in sandy soil

What is Deep Ripping?

Deep ripping (or simply “ripping”) is a form of deep tillage. It is a soil preparation technique that involves using specialised machinery, like deep ripper ploughs (also known as “subsoilers”) with strong, narrow shanks (or ‘tynes’), to penetrate beneath and fracture hardpans and compaction that have built up in the subsoil. When implemented correctly, deep ripping improves water infiltration, plant root penetration, and overall soil health.

How Do Deep Rippers Work?

Deep rippers “rip” beneath compacted soil layers to loosen and aerate the subsoil while preserving the surface's organic matter and fertile topsoil. The shank’s blade pierces the ground down to the working depth, acting as a wedge that lifts the soil. This lifting action causes the soil to fracture and crack upwards. The shattered clods then crumble around the shank as it moves through the ground, aerating and loosening the soil.

Shallow roots and weak crops limited by soil compaction [left] vs longer roots and larger crops not restricted by hard compacted layer after deep ripping [right].

The Benefits of Deep Ripping

  • Improved Soil Structure: By breaking up compacted layers, deep ripping promotes better soil aggregation and encourages microbe and worm activity which improve the overall soil health.
  • Increased Water Infiltration: Deep ripping increases water drainage and infiltration, improving the soil’s moisture retention properties and reducing water-logging and the risk of water erosion.
  • Better Root Growth: Plants can grow deeper roots because they have better access to moisture, oxygen, and nutrients as they aren’t constrained by a hard compacted soil layer.
  • Weed Control: Deep ripping cuts old plant roots and weeds and helps break down organic matter, promoting soil fertility and nutrient availability.
  • Faster Crop Establishment: Roots can penetrate the aerated soil faster and deeper, resulting in quicker, healthier crop establishment and reducing the impact of wind soil erosion.
  • Increased Yields: Deep ripping can lead to increased crop yields per hectare. This is particularly evident when cropping grain in deep sandy soils.

Photo: Shallow roots and weak crops limited by soil compaction [left] vs longer roots and larger crops not restricted by hard compacted layer after deep ripping [right].

Further Reading:

Agrowplow AP81 broadacre plough with shanks in soil towed behind John Deere tracked tractor

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