Mitigating arable soil compaction: A review and analysis of available cost and benefit data

W. C. Tim Chamen, Andrew P. Moxey, Willie Towers, Bedru Balana, Paul D. Hallett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


The costs and benefits of soil compaction mitigation are reviewed and analysed based on UK examples and soil types in this article. The review focusses first on operational costs, where the most definitive data are available. This includes the costs associated with remediation/alleviation strategies such as subsoiling. Next it considers the costs of limiting the occurrence of compaction by the adoption of new technologies. The environmental costs of soil compaction, through direct impacts at the farm gate on yields and inputs, and indirectly on ecosystem services provided by soil are also considered to assess the value of different approaches. Factors considered are the influence of soil, farm management practice and novel approaches that are either in use or being developed. Although data were limited and often context specific, the significance of soil compaction to farm gate gross margins was apparent. We examined subsoiling, targeted subsoiling and ploughing as soil compaction mitigation options, as well as low ground pressure tyres, tracked tractors and controlled traffic farming (CTF) as soil compaction avoidance technologies. For mitigation options, only targeted subsoiling resulted in a positive change to gross margin, between 0 pound/ha for sandy soil and 22 pound/ha for clay soil. All soil compaction avoidance technologies increased gross margins significantly, ranging from 26 pound/ha for tracked tractors on sandy soil to 118 pound/ha for CTF on clay soil. Avoidance technologies also decrease leaching and emissions of nitrogen, and require less fuel, providing a win-win situation for farmers and the environment. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-25
Number of pages16
JournalSoil & Tillage Research
Issue numberPart A.
Early online date26 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

We thank Defra for funding of the project “Studies to inform policy development with regard to soil degradation: Subproject A: Cost curve for mitigation of soil compaction” (Project SP1305). The James Hutton Institute receives funding from the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) of the Scottish Government. We thank the anonymous reviewers and Prof. Rainer Horn for providing insightful comments that greatly improved the manuscript.


  • nitrous-oxide emission
  • filled pore-space
  • high axle loads
  • subsoil compaction
  • crop responses
  • physical-properties
  • traffic systems
  • clay soil
  • mechanical-behavior
  • inflation pressure


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