Soil Compaction Prevention, Amelioration and Alleviation Measures Are Effective in Mechanized and Smallholder Agriculture : A Meta-Analysis

Yang, Peipei; Dong, Wenxu; Heinen, Marius; Qin, Wei; Oenema, Oene


Background: The compaction of subsoils in agriculture is a threat to soil functioning. Measures aimed at the prevention, amelioration, and/or impact alleviation of compacted subsoils have been studied for more than a century, but less in smallholder agriculture. Methods: A meta-analysis was conducted to quantitatively examine the effects of the prevention, amelioration, and impact alleviation measures in mechanized and small-holder agriculture countries, using studies published during 2000~2019/2020. Results: Mean effect sizes of crop yields were large for controlled traffic (+34%) and irrigation (+51%), modest for subsoiling, deep ploughing, and residue return (+10%), and negative for no-tillage (−6%). Mean effect sizes of soil bulk density were small (<10%), suggesting bulk density is not a sensitive ‘state’ indicator. Mean effect sizes of penetration resistance were relatively large, with large variations. Controlled traffic had a larger effect in small-holder farming than mechanized agriculture. Conclusion: We found no fundamental differences between mechanized and smallholder agriculture in the mean effect sizes of the prevention, amelioration, and impact alleviation measures. Measures that prevent soil compaction are commonly preferred, but amelioration and alleviation are often equally needed and effective, depending on site-specific conditions. A toolbox of soil compaction prevention, amelioration, and alleviation measures is needed, for both mechanized and smallholder agriculture.