A fragipan is a cement-like layer found in some soils.

Soils containing this layer are common throughout the major crop production areas of Kentucky, and they limit grain crops’ yield potential, especially during dry seasons. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture soil scientist John Grove is conducting a study that will look at potential ways to move the fragipan layer deeper in the soil profile and increase corn and soybean yields.

“Many of the fragipan soils in Kentucky are rated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as Class II or III soils and only about two-thirds of them are being actively farmed or pastured,” Grove said. “My vision for this study is that we will learn a way to add value to the soil and help growers move their ground to a higher level of productivity.”

About 250,000 acres of Kentucky soybeans are on grown on fragipan soils. The fragipan affects crop yields by causing excessive moisture during wet periods in the spring. This can delay planting or result in compaction caused by “mudding in” a crop.

In addition, fragipan soils increase the probability that the plant will experience drought stress during dry periods that are normally experienced during a Kentucky summer. Fragipan restricts plant root growth, and roots cannot reach available water deeper in the soil.