Physical resilience of soil to field compaction and the interactions with plant growth and microbial community structure

A. S. Gregory*, C. W. Watts, W. R. Whalley, H. L. Kuan, B. S. Griffiths, P. D. Hallett, A. P. Whitmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Soil compaction has deleterious effects on soil physical properties, which can affect plant growth, but some soils are inherently resilient, whereby they may recover following removal of the stress. We explored aspects of soil physical resilience in a field-based experiment. We subjected three soils of different texture, sown with winter wheat or remaining fallow, to a compaction event. We then monitored soil strength, as a key soil physical property, over the following 16 months. We were also interested in the associated interactions with crop growth and the microbial community. Compaction had a considerable and sustained effect in a sandy loam and a sandy clay loam soil, resulting in an increase in strength and decreased crop yields. By contrast compaction had little effect on a clay soil, perhaps due initially to the buoyancy effect of pore water pressure. Fallow clay soil did have a legacy of the compaction event at depth, however, suggesting that it was the actions of the crop, and rooting in particular, that maintained smaller strengths in the cropped clay soil rather than other physical processes. Compaction generally did not affect microbial communities, presumably because they occupy pores smaller than those affected by compaction. That the clay soil was able to supply the growing crop with sufficient water whilst remaining weak enough for root penetration was a key finding. The clay soil was therefore deemed to be much more resilient to the compaction stress than the sandy loam and sandy clay loam soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1232
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • management
  • quality
  • stress
  • biomass
  • single
  • tillage
  • shifts
  • nitrogen
  • responses
  • penetrometer resistance


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