Identification of Sealing Soils

Drew Gholson, Irrigation Specialist
By Dan Roach, Ext. Associate and Drew Gholson, Irrigation Specialist May 20, 2015 10:11

Surface sealing in the Mississippi Delta typically occurs in soils that have a low clay and organic matter content but have a high silt fraction, i.e., most of our silt loam soils. Surface sealing, from an irrigation management standpoint, is problematic because it can drastically reduce rainfall or irrigation infiltration rates. Following is a list of means to determine if you have a soil that is prone to surface sealing:

1) Soil classified as Silt LoamIMGP3337
2) Battle “crusting” problems
3) PHAUCET or Pipe Planner indicates 24 hrs to apply 2 acre-inches but you reach the tail-ditch in half the time, i.e., 1 acre-inch applied
4) Platy soil structure present in the top quarter inch of soil surface (see pictures(s) below, click to enlarge)

platy soil

DSCN0017 (2)


IMGP3341To identify sealing soils that may have issues with poor infiltration rates first take notice of surface characteristics.  The surface of a sealing soil is smooth with no visual cracks apparent.  Second, take a knife and peel away the top one inch or so. Analyze the cross section of the soil for “platy” structure.  Platy soil structure consists of  multiple, thin plates stacked on top of each other (see above pictures).


PlatyWe haveMorgan Plow a number of 2015 trials where we are tilling the soil at or near the lay-by timing with a Nichols parabolic anhydrous knife at a depth of 8 to 10 inches. (click on the picture to the right you can see the platy structures.)  Preliminary results show better infiltration rates than the non-tilled check. Where we have tilled at lay-by, sensor readings remain much lower, especially in the deeper regions, signifying better infiltration. Yield data from 2014,  harvested soybeans showed a 2 bushel yield advantage where the anhydrous knife was ran as compared to the no tillage control.


surge1Placing surge valves on sealing soils has also proven beneficial. In nearly every case where a surge valve was deployed and used properly the advance cycle promoted water penetrated to a depth of at least 12”.  Some soils may require a combination approach.

If you are interested, please give us a call. For additional info click here:

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Drew Gholson, Irrigation Specialist
By Dan Roach, Ext. Associate and Drew Gholson, Irrigation Specialist May 20, 2015 10:11
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