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Demonstration of Subsoiling to Improve Soil Compaction and Infiltration Rates on Pasture

Project Site: Mackay Ross' Farm - Cleardale

Research Program Manager: Dr. Akim Omokanye From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2018 Annual Report

In the Peace Country, soil compaction is one of the main problems for hay and pasture production and is mostly likely linked to the intensification of production and our soil type, which is referred to as ‘gumbo’. ‘Gumbo’ soils are characterized by a tough, impermeable hardpan that may vary from 2-12 inches or more below the soil surface (Lickacz, 1993). This hardpan severely restricts root and water penetration of the subsoil. Also, soil compaction resulting from cattle trampling in pastures could reduce soil respiration by reducing pore space and limiting oxygen diffusion. Subsoiling can break compacted soil layers without disturbing plant life, topsoil or surface residue. When properly done, subsoiling loosens the soil, allowing roots to penetrate deeper into the profile, which increases water infiltration and improves conditions conducive to biological activity. It is therefore the starting point for the alleviation of compacted soils. However, subsoiling is a complex and expensive operation which must be well planned and executed in order to achieve the desired results. The objective of this study was to conduct an assessment on the suitability of different types of subsoilers (in combination with or without rolling) for reducing soil compaction, increasing soil infiltration, and improving soil moisture.


The project site was in Cleardale at Mackay Ross’ farm. The paddock was initially seeded to creeping red fescue. Alsike clover was later broadcast (12 years later, 2011) onto the paddock.

A demonstration strip design was used. We used 2 types of subsoilers - a Sumo (GLS-Grassland) subsoiler and an Agrowplow (Model AP91). The subsoiling treatments consisted of the following:

1. Sumo alone – subsoiling to a depth of 12’’

2. Sumo + rolling - subsoiling to a depth of 12’’ followed by rolling