Rye = fragipan’s nightmare?


Active Member
I thought this was interesting.


Junior Upton is fragipan’s nightmare. In the late 1990s, Upton was dealing with drought and strangled yield across much of his farmland. He planted annual ryegrass following harvest, hoping to gain the conventional benefits of a cover crop and no till system. However, the Illinois grower had no idea he’d just lit the fuse on the destruction of a soil scourge.

The eastern half of the U.S. is plagued by 50 million acres of fragipan soil. Light in color, fragipan often starts at 1’ to 2’ below the surface and roughly averages 2’ to 4’ in thickness. A solid barrier of cemented soil particles that slams the door on water passage and crop roots, fragipan is a yield killer. However, annual ryegrass is showing genuine promise as a battering ram against fragipan, evidenced by yield boosts and sustained success on Upton’s farmland.

Upton, 70, has farmed hills and flats since 1964, and the vast majority of his ground is afflicted with varying degrees of fragipan, hiding roughly 8” below his Hamilton County acreage. The white, chalky layer has been a consistent source of diminished yield, no surprise when grain crops subsist on the top few inches of dirt.......