Department of Agriculture
In the past few years the question of irrigation has become a very important one in many parts of the West. By means of irrigation many thousands of acres of land have been brought under profitable cultivation, and the work has but barely commenced. Many sections of the West, however, have no available water supply, nor do they need irrigation every year. In other words, the climate is too moist for profitable irrigation every year, and yet crops often suffer from lack of sufficient rains when maturing. Hence, many farmers have felt the need of some method of increasing the drouth [sic]-resisting capacity of land, short of actual irrigation. Subsoiling, by which, is meant the stirring of the subsoil without bringing it to the surface, has been much discussed in this connection as being the best method of, retaining moisture in the soil. Hence, subsoiling is now being thoroughly tested in many parts of Kansas and Nebraska. The general experience so far is rather favorable, yet further experience is needed, The question is a complicated one and several seasons are needed to determine the ultimate value of the method. The main question to determine is whether the increased yield will pay for the cost of subsoiling. Soils with a. very bard subsoil are most benefitted, while soils with loose or gravelly subsoil are generally not benefitted by subsoiling, but, on the contrary, are sometimes injured. Subsoiling makes the soil very loose, and if not followed by rain sufficient to settle the soil before planting, a lessened yield generally results the first season. This is why subsoiling in the fall is regarded with the most favor, because the rain and snow firm the soil before planting time. In other words, subsoiling deepens the reservoir, but moisture is needed to fill it and to restore the capillarity between the stirred soil and the firm earth beneath, so that if subsoiling is followed by a very dry winter, no benefit will be apparent, but rather the contrary.
U. S. Experiment Station of South Dakota, South Dakota Agricultural College
Hansen, N.E. and Burnett, E.A., "Subsoiling" (1897). Research Bulletins of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (1887-2011). 54.