Although springtime is the most popular time to plant conservation tree seedlings, fall offers a great opportunity to plant seedlings if the soil moisture is adequate. A fall planting allows plants to become well established before winter; therefore, when spring arrives, plants can begin growing early and take advantage of optimum growing conditions.

The Kansas Forest Service Conservation Tree Planting Program offers containerized tree seedlings for fall distribution.

This program encourages landowners to plant trees and shrubs for conservation purposes. Approved uses of these plants include: home, field and livestock windbreaks, woodlots, riparian plantings, wildlife habitat, Christmas trees and establishing other related conservation practices.

Organizations considering planting seedlings for educational benefits also are encouraged to order. Orders will be taken from the first Tuesday in September through the second Friday in October. This fall there will be a good selection of different species being offered. As always, there will be a good supply of evergreens for sale to include eastern red cedar, Southwestern white pine, Austrian pine and Ponderosa pine.

The Conservation Tree Planting Program has expanded the deciduous species available, but they are in limited supply.

The deciduous species being offered this fall include redbud, black walnut, fragrant sumac, bur oak, English oak, pecan, sawtooth oak, lacebark elm and swamp white oak. Prices for the seedlings will be $50 for 25 seedlings, which is the minimum amount that can be ordered.

Container plants are easy to take care of from the time the customer receives them until they are planted. The seedlings simply need to be stored upright out of the wind and watered until planted. As always, it is best to plant the seedlings as soon as possible to give them a better chance in the ground.

When planting the seedling, dig the planting hole slightly deeper than the root plug so when planted the root plug will be covered with one-half to one inch of soil. Remove the plants from the container before planting. Place soil around the root plug and firm it to remove air pockets from around the roots. Water the seedlings after planting.

Stake the plants, if needed, to hold them upright. If a conservation tree planting is on your mind, or you just need to plant replacements from a previous tree planting, fall provides an excellent time to accomplish this.

Additional information and assistance in establishing conservation tree plantings are available from Kansas Forest Service, local Kansas State Research and Extension offices, Natural Resource Conservation offices, County Conservation District offices and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Order conservation trees through Oct. 9 online at www.kansasforests.org call (888) 740-8733, or call the Finney County Extension Office at 272-3670 for order blanks, assistance with design and recommended plants for our southwest climate.

Avoiding subsoil compaction

Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are pressed together, limiting the space for air. The results are decreased soil permeability, greater potential for moisture and nutrient stress, and the reduced exchange of gases within the soil.

The amount of soil water is a critical factor in soil compaction potential. Moist soils are the most subject to compaction. There are different types of compaction, but at harvest time, deep compaction is the type that tends to occur.

Deep compaction is related to the maximum axle load, and is not reduced by distributing the weight across more tires or larger tires. Deep compaction is nearly impossible to remove with tillage as it occurs at a depth that is beyond the depth of most tillage implements. A moist soil can be compacted to a depth of greater than 18 inches by a 10-ton axle load. Research on subsoil compaction has found that axle loads greater than 10 tons per axle can be very destructive.

A recent research report from Pennsylvania State University stated that annual compaction from a 10-ton axle load reduced corn yield by 17 percent in three out of four years on a silt loam.

After compaction has occurred, its effects on crop yields will be most severe in a dry year, and less so in a wetter year, since soil strength increases as soils dry.

Plant roots have a much harder time growing in a compacted soil when the soil is dry.

At harvest is when most fields experience the heaviest loads due to the activity of combines, silage equipment and grain carts. A 1,050-bushel grain cart weighs approximately 19,700 pounds when empty. That weight increases by 58,800 pounds when the cart is filled with 1,050 bushels of grain, with a test weight of 56 pounds per bushel. That's a total of 78,500 pounds.

Assuming the grain cart transfers about 8,000 pounds to the tractor through the tongue of the wagon, the total weight of a full grain cart in this example would be 70,500 pounds.

If the grain cart has two axles, that equals 17.6 tons per axle. A 12-row combine full of corn exceeds 20 tons per axle.

Producers must, of course, run traffic on their fields at harvest time.

Two key points for minimizing damage from heavy axle loads are to limit traffic when fields are wet, and to confine the majority of traffic, to the extent possible for the operation, to end rows. Keep in mind that the first pass of a wheel causes 70 to 90 percent of the total compaction, so preventing unnecessary traffic routes on the majority of the field is very beneficial.

Information provided by DeAnn Presley, K-State Extension soil management specialist, deann@ksu.edu.