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Soil compaction: Wikis

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Soil compaction occurs when the weight of heavy machinery compresses the soil, causing it to lose pore space. Soil compaction may also occur due to a lack of water in the soil. [1]Affected soils become less able to absorb rainfall, thus increasing runoff and erosion. Plants have difficulty in compacted soil because the mineral grains are pressed together, leaving little space for air and water, which are essential for root growth. Burrowing animals also find a hostile environment, because the denser soil is more difficult to penetrate.

The ability of a soil to recover from compaction depends on climate, mineralogy and fauna. Soils with high shrink-swell capacity, such as Vertisols, recover quickly from compaction where moisture conditions are variable (dry spells shrink the soil, causing it to crack). But clays which do not crack as they dry cannot recover from compaction on their own unless they host ground-dwelling animals such as earthworms — the Cecil soil series is an example.

A crawler-backhoe is here equipped with a narrow sheepsfoot roller to compact the fill over newly placed sewer pipe, forming a stable support for a new road surface
A compactor/roller operated by U.S. Navy Seabees

Contents

In construction

Increasing the density of soils, along with its side effects of increased strength and decreased permeability, is usually desirable in earthwork construction and below building foundations. Compaction is accomplished by use of heavy equipment. In sands and gravels, the equipment usually vibrates, to cause re-orientation of the soil particles into a denser configuration. In silts and clays, a sheepsfoot roller is frequently used, to create small zones of intense shearing, which drives air out of the soil.

The result of soil compaction is measured by determining the bulk density and optimum moisture of the compacted soil and comparing it to a maximum dry density, for example, obtained from a Proctor compaction test, to determine the relative compaction.

In agriculture

Compaction of agricultural soils is a concern to many agricultural soil scientists and farmers, since soil compaction due to heavy field traffic may reduce plant growth. This may be observed clearly in wheel ruts. However, it cannot be stated that all compaction reduces plant growth. The topic is complicated, because it involves the response of the plant to the soil structure and the availability of water. Thus, it requires knowledge about the stress distribution in the soil below the applied load, and knowledge about the resulting soil deformation and shearing.

Eliminating compaction

In farming, soil compaction has very negative effects on the harvest. Solutions to overcome compaction include tillage and the zaï-system. [2]

See also

References

External links

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