Soil compaction is a serious problem in agriculture, adversely affecting plant growth and causing lower yields. Now satellites are being used to help aerate the soil.
Direct sowing, which dispenses with soil tillage in all forms, may leave the topsoil more heavily compacted than other farming methods, resulting in poorer plant development. Paradoxically, the solution for this problem lies in outer space. In so-called ‘controlled traffic farming’, satellites steer tractors over the fields on permanent tracks, as if on rails. In order for this to work, the working width of all machines must be matched. In this way, only a relatively small area of the field is driven over and compacted. Agroscope is studying the effect that this process has on soils, plants, mechanisation and profitability. It is hoped that the system will reduce compaction, benefit soil structure, and improve the supply of nutrients and water to plants.