Intensification of mechanical agriculture has increased the risk for soil compaction and deformation. Simultaneously, reduced tillage practices have become popular due to energy saving and environmental concerns, as they may strengthen and improve the functioning of structured soil pore system. Soil aeration is affected by both compaction and reduced tillage through changes in soil structure and in the distribution of easily decomposable organic matter. We investigated whether a single wheeling by a 35 000 kg sugar-beet harvester in a Stagnic Luvisol derived from loess near Göttingen, Germany, influenced the gas transport properties (air permeability, gaseous macro- and microdiffusivities, oxygen diffusion rate) in the topsoil and subsoil samples, and whether the effects were different between long-term reduced tillage and mouldboard ploughing. Poor structure in the topsoil resulted in slow macro- and microscale gas transport at moisture contents near field capacity. The macrodiffusivities in the topsoil under conventional tillage were slower compared with those under conservation treatment, and soil compaction reduced the diffusivities by about half at the soil depths studied. This shows that even one pass with heavy machinery near field capacity impairs soil structure deep into the profile, and supports the view that reduced tillage improves soil structure and aeration compared with ploughing, especially in the topsoil.;
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