Traffic Effects on Soil Compaction and Sugar Beet (Beta vulgaris L.) Taproot Quality Parameters
Soil compaction is a critical issue in agriculture having a significant influence on crop growth. Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) is accounted as a crop susceptible to compaction. Reduction of leaf area, final yield, and root quality parameters are reported in compacted soils. The most obvious visual indicator of topsoil compaction is root depth affected by agricultural tractor and machinery traffic up on the soil. Such indicators are mainly correlated to initial soil condition, tyre features, and number of passages. Monitoring and controlling frequency and position of machine traffic across the field, in such a way that passages are completed on specific, well-defined tracks, can assist with minimization of compaction effects on soil. The objective of the present work was to analyze the subsoil compaction during the growing period of sugar beet with different farming approaches including controlled traffic passages and random traffic. To this end, tests were carried out following each agro technical operation using penetrometer readings in order to monitor the state of cone-index after each step. In addition, at the harvesting time, root quality parameters were analyzed with particular attention to length and regularity of the taproot, total length, circumference, mass, and above-ground biomass. Such parameters were usefully implemented in order to evaluate the effects of controlled traffic passages compared to the random traffic in a cultivation of sugar beet. Results highlight how an increase in crop yield, derived from samples monitored, higher than 10% can be expected with implementation of a careful traffic management.