Brief Overview

Soil compaction happens when soil gets squished. Healthy soil  has lots of air pockets which allow soil to retain oxygen, nutrients, and to conduct water. Compacted soil does not allow for easy water penetration – therefore vital water is lost to runoff.

For example, put a handful of potting soil in  two separate containers. Pour a tablespoon of water into one container and watch how the water easily soaks in. Now take your fist and smash the soil in the other container. Pour a tablespoon of water onto the squished soil. Notice how the water bubbles up on the soil surface and either does not soak in or takes much longer to soak in. Extend this idea to 1000 of acres of Missouri farmland.

Consequences

The image below from the Mother Earth News provides a visual of the consequences of soil compaction.

The image below shows the difference in corn production between corn grown in ideal soil (right) to corn grown where large machinery, designed to drive on hard-surface roads and not across farm fields, was driven to work on gigantic power lines. Additional damage occurs when these large trucks take the same route across fields over and over again during construction and maintenance.

Soil compaction is also associated with poor drainage, increased erosion, poor nutrient uptake for crops, reduced microbial activity, and increased fertilizer and pesticide runoff. All of these consequences stunt crop growth.

How Projects Cause Soil Compaction

In order to build gigantic power lines, construction companies drive huge machinery across fields. These heavy machines crush the soil much more than your fist can crush a handful of potting soil.

Can Soil Compaction be Corrected?

Short Answer: No, not really. Check back for an in-depth analysis, but for now, use the links below and decide for yourself.

Links to more in depth information

University of Minnesota: Info on Soil Compaction

Penn State Extension: Effects of Soil Compaction

UW Extension: Soil compaction: Causes, concerns, and cures