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Winter pugging damage and spring sown crops

Winter pugging damage and spring sown crops

Winter pugging damage and spring sown crops

There are times of the year, typically in winter and spring, when soils are wet and prone to pugging damage from animal treading. This damage can present an insidious knock-on effect on the potential yield of spring-sown crops.

Farmers can utilise various management options to reduce the effects of pugging damage on-farm. These include:

  • Grazing water affected paddocks before the wetter part of the season
  • Grazing when soil moisture is ideal for it to be done safely
  • Build pasture cover leading into the wet season as good pasture cover will provide greater protection against treading damage
  • Back fencing to stop animals from walking unnecessarily over an already grazed area
  • Allow shortened periods of grazing, followed by a period of stand-off (on and off grazing).

Even with the best of intentions, and using the methods recommended above, damage to the soil structure from pugging can sometimes be unavoidable.

Pugging damage results in poor pasture utilisation at the time of grazing and a reduction in pasture growth rates subsequent to the grazing event. However, though pastures can appear to have recovered, this can mask the effects of pugging damage which can be detrimental to the soil structure and hard to identify without digging a hole. Pugging damage can also result in an increase in soil bulk density from compaction and decrease soil porosity from the breaking down of its aggregate structure, resulting in a loss of aeration and drainage ability of the soil.

Pastures that have had pugging damage can often be sown as spring crops for summer or winter feed. The compaction created by the pugging can impede soil drainage and restrict root growth, affecting crop yield. If you have compacted soil, consider sub-soiling or ripping prior to planting the spring crop. This will allow the compaction layer to break up, improving water and root movement through the profile. This option is particularly beneficial on clay or clay-loam soils prone to pugging damage.

For help assessing the condition of your soil, and advice on how to recover soil structure, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.