How to Aerate Soil with Shallow Tillage?


Are you a farmer concerned about the need to aerate your soil through tillage? Your quest for effective solutions is over, thanks to Kelly Tillage. In this comprehensive guide on “How to Aerate Soil with Tillage,” we will not only address your concerns but also provide you with a deep understanding of the soil aeration process. 

With Kelly Tillage at your side, the worries surrounding soil aeration become a thing of the past. Our advanced farming tools are designed to mechanically aerate your soil, making the process easier and more efficient than ever before. 

Join us on this informative journey as we explore the benefits and techniques of soil aeration through the exceptional capabilities of Kelly.

What is Soil Aeration? 

Soil aeration is a process that facilitates the exchange of gasses, particularly oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), between the soil’s pores and the atmosphere. This vital process prevents oxygen deficiency in crops and helps regulate elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the soil.

It involves creating openings in the soil to facilitate better access to air, water, and nutrients. When soil becomes compacted, it can hinder the nourishment and oxygen supply to plant roots, potentially leading to their weakening or death.

Why does Soil need to be Aerated?  

Soil aeration is essential for the health of crop roots because they need oxygen for a process called respiration. Respiration is like a power source for plants, allowing them to grow, take in nutrients, and stay healthy. It’s a bit like how we as humans need food and air to have energy.

When soil is well-aerated, there’s enough oxygen for plant roots to breathe. This oxygen helps break down the food (glucose) plants make through photosynthesis, releasing energy in a molecule called ATP. 

Think of ATP as a battery that powers all of the plant’s activities, like growing, taking in nutrients, and staying healthy. So, when soil is properly aerated, it ensures that plants have the energy they require to do everything they need to thrive.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a molecule. It is referred to as the “energy currency” of cells as it plays a crucial role in various cellular processes as a primary source of chemical energy.

It serves the dual role of both storing energy for future cellular reactions and providing immediate energy when needed. Plants capture and store the energy derived from sunlight during photosynthesis in the form of ATP molecules, ready to be utilized for their metabolic needs.

When the soil is poorly aerated, roots are deprived of the necessary oxygen, and as a result, they struggle to respire efficiently. This oxygen deprivation causes the roots to weaken and ultimately leads to their decline, affecting their ability to absorb essential nutrients and water. Consequently, the entire plant’s health is compromised, often resulting in its death.

Causes of Poor Soil Aeration

To help farmers grasp the importance of soil aeration and how to handle it properly, it’s crucial to explain what can impact it. The factors that affect soil aeration include:

Vehicle Traffic 

Heavy machinery can cause soil compaction when used extensively on farmlands. To mitigate this issue, it is advisable to restrict the use of large field equipment such as forage harvesters and plows. 

However, Kelly disc harrows excel in this regard as they efficiently perform shallow tilling in a single pass, safeguarding the fields from compression. This is where our farm equipment truly distinguishes itself.

Compacted Soil 

Poor aeration of soil is primarily caused by compaction, which is more likely to occur in finer-textured soils. Finer soils have smaller particles that densely pack together, reducing the available space for oxygen. 

This lack of oxygen is detrimental to both plants and aerobic soil organisms, hindering their ability to thrive. Compaction can often result from improper irrigation practices and other field operations like deep tillage. 

Soil Organic Matter 

Soil organic matter can affect soil aeration. While it is important for boosting soil fertility, its decomposition can release (CO2) into the soil. 

When there’s an excessive amount of organic matter, soil undergoes rapid decomposition, which can lead to the buildup of CO2 levels, potentially reaching toxic concentrations.

High CO2 levels in the soil can have several negative consequences. Firstly, excess carbon dioxide can slow down the removal process, making it difficult for this gas to escape from the soil. This retention of carbon dioxide interferes with the oxygen supply that plant roots rely on for respiration and growth. 

Oxygen is vital for the roots as it’s involved in various metabolic processes, and plants obtain it through the exchange between the soil and atmospheric air.

When soil aeration is compromised due to the excessive release and retention of carbon dioxide, plant health, and growth can be negatively impacted. 

It’s crucial, therefore, to add organic matter to the soil in moderation or use well-decomposed organic matter to strike a balance between enhancing soil fertility and maintaining proper soil aeration, ensuring that plant roots receive the necessary oxygen for optimal development.

Breathing Life into Soil: Aeration with Shallow Tillage

Kelly is strongly in favor of shallow tillage because we prioritize the health of your soil, American farmers. While deep tilling can improve aeration, it also has the drawback of potentially losing valuable topsoil, due to soil loosening thus causing erosion over time.

Consequently, we have designed our farm equipment to perform shallow/ minimum tillage in order to address these concerns and maintain soil health. 

Our all discs & harrows are manufactured to perform the minimum tillage. They are the finest farm tools known for their ability to aerate the soil while performing shallow tilling:

Kelly diamond/disc harrows can aerate the soil while performing shallow tillage by breaking up the top layer of soil using its rotating disc blades. 

Shallow tillage involves working the soil to a relatively shallow depth, typically a few inches deep, without disturbing the soil’s underlying structure. This prevents the soil from eroding while maintaining a suitable seedbed for planting or cultivation.

As these blades cut through the soil surface, they create channels and pockets of air, allowing for improved soil aeration within this shallow zone. 

This process helps increase soil compaction, enhance water infiltration, and promote root growth by providing roots with easier access to oxygen and nutrients in the topsoil layer. 

When to Aerate the Soil? 

The timing and frequency of soil aeration for crops depend on various factors, including soil type, crop type, and local climate conditions. It’s essential to aerate it when the ground is soft but not overly soggy or frozen, as aerating under extreme conditions can damage equipment and disrupt the soil structure. 

For warm-season crops, such as soybeans, it is advisable to practice aerating in the spring or early summer when they are actively growing and the soil is sufficiently warm. 

In contrast, cool-season crops like wheat and barley benefit from this process in the fall, ideally about a month before the first frost is expected if freezing weather is a concern in your region. 

The frequency of aeration also varies; sandy soils with minimal traffic may require annual aeration, while heavy clay soils, particularly with high traffic, may benefit from aeration twice a year to maintain optimal soil structure and crop growth

When we talk about sandy soils with “minimal traffic,” it means these soils don’t experience much disturbance from people or machines, and they may only need it once a year to keep them healthy. 

On the other hand, heavy clay soils, where there’s a lot of walking or machinery use, can get compacted more easily, so they may require aeration twice a year to ensure the soil remains loose and suitable for crops to thrive.

Summing Up 

To summarize, soil aeration through shallow/ minimum tillage is a valuable technique for enhancing soil quality and promoting healthy plant growth. 

However, it should be approached with care to minimize potential environmental impacts and maintain long-term soil health. Opting for the KELLY Tillage System is the best choice, and you’ll be pleased you did.