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New Land, Over-farmed Clay Soil in MN

Got a 10 acre plot added sweet corn.  Never dealt with soil like this, as I'm used to black loam soil.  What I'm left with is clay, and after wet, then dry is like concrete on top making it hard for my corn to grow.  My hypothesis is this land has been over-farmed over past 120 years, and erosion has taken it's tool with basically no topsoil left.  My plan is to add organic material over time, but is there really any other options.  It's kinda sad.  Oh, and the other interesting thing is it dries out extremely fast.  Therefore to grow pretty much anything, need a light watering every other day.  Crazy. 

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2 Replies
erikjohnson61y
Esteemed Advisor

Re: New Land, Over-farmed Clay Soil in MN

Are you sure you're not in South Dakota??  Pretty good description of our soils...

You can grow stuff in clay if it's not too out of whack.  Have you taken some soil tests??  What is the pH? CEC? Na and K Base Saturation? OM??  Is the plot reasonably well drained?  Get the answers to these questions and then you can make a plan to *gradually* improve the plot. If as you say it took 120 years to wreck it, it'll take at least 5-10 to fix it. But you have to know what the problems are - don't just throw stuff  (organic matter) at the problem and hope it's the right thing.

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sdholloway56
Esteemed Advisor

Re: New Land, Over-farmed Clay Soil in MN

It doesn't happen instantaneously but over time those sorts of soils respond well to a very light touch. Try as you may you aren't going to beat it into shape and will only make matters worse.

Little tillage plus surface residues.

There may be a judicious place for some deep tillage but I wouldn't get carried away.

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