Most sandy soils in South Carolina have a compacted zone, called a hardpan that roots can’t penetrate. If the hardpan isn’t tilled, plant roots can’t reach the water and nutrients in the deeper soil. The hardpan costs a great deal of fuel to till, and it can also reduce crop yields by as much as 50 percent.
Clemson University researchers are developing a real-time, variable-rate tillage system that uses sensor technologies to pinpoint the depth and thickness of the soil hardpan. The technology communicates with the tillage equipment to automatically adjust the blade depth. As a result, farmers don’t till soil and don’t till deeper than needed. The research project resulted in fuel savings of up to 45 percent for participating farmers.
NIFA supports the research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).