Tilling Compacted Soils with RipPlows: A Disturbed Soil Restoration Technique

David McNabb
Jean-Marie Sobze
Amanda Schoonmaker
Resource Date:

The trafficking of soils by industrial equipment generally causes an increase in soil density and loss of soil structure. The effects of moderate to severe compaction and loss of soil structure on the hydrological and ecological function of soils 10- to 20 cm below the surface is not expected to recover naturally without intervention. The restoration of the soil physical environment as deep as reasonably possible to reduce the impaired hydrologic function is of upmost importance in restoring sustainable forest and ecological function to these sites.

The process of restoring hydrologic function requires the fracturing of the soil profile to increase soil porosity. Soil fracturing will also improve aeration, allow root systems of perennial plants to occupy the soil, and establish more sustainable forest systems.

The objective of this technical note is to describe and illustrate best management practices for the use of RipPlows for deep soil tillage, the conditions that limit their use and effectiveness, practices that fail to optimize their effectiveness, and practices to improve operational productivity. These subjects will be divided into four categories and presented in the following topics:

  1. Machine/RipPlow interaction
  2. Maximizing the tillage benefit
  3. Operational practices

The environmental risks and tilling frozen soil will be dealt with in a separate technical note.