Advice on grassland management after a wet winter

Friday, 1 March 2024

The aftermath of a wet winter can pose unique challenges for farmers managing grasslands. Excessive moisture can lead to soil compaction, affecting the health of grasses and limiting productivity. Here we look at some of the issues and how you can mitigate the consequences.

Assess your grassland

Begin by assessing the soil conditions on your grassland. Identify areas prone to compaction and evaluate the extent of the damage. Alleviating soil compaction and improving grassland health are crucial aspects of sustainable farming.

Soil health plays an important role in building resilience in our agricultural ecosystems and how they respond to environmental challenges, such as floods and drought. It is a key contributor to long-term sustainability in food production. Therefore, it is important to conduct soil tests to understand the current nutrient levels, pH and soil structure.

Crop rotation

Consider implementing a crop rotation and diversifying your plant species. Don’t underestimate the power of the root! Different crops have varying root structures, which can help break up compacted soil layers and enhance overall soil health, water infiltration and nutrient recycling.


Minimise the use of heavy machinery on wet soils, as this can lead to compaction. Choose appropriate times for field operations, especially during periods when the soil is dry enough to prevent excessive compaction.


Manage manure application carefully to avoid compacting the soil. Incorporate manure into the soil when conditions are suitable and consider practices that will improve organic matter content.

Organic matter

Organic matter acts as a binding agent, enhancing the soil structure. It promotes the formation of aggregates, which improves soil porosity and aeration. This, in turn, facilitates better water infiltration and root penetration. Organic matter also has a high water-holding capacity, helping soils retain moisture during dry periods.


Consider adopting no-till or reduced-till farming practices. These methods can help preserve soil structure and reduce the risk of compaction. They also preserve organic matter in the soil, leading to improved soil fertility.

The organic residues decompose slowly, releasing nutrients gradually and providing a continuous source of food for soil microorganisms. In turn, this makes our systems more resilient to extreme weather events, such as heavy rain or drought, as they maintain better soil structure, moisture and overall health.


When and where suitable, consider using subsoilers to break up compacted layers. Subsoiling equipment can penetrate deep into the soil, fracturing compacted layers and improving water infiltration. Mechanical aerators can also be used to improve soil aeration. These machines create channels in the soil, allowing for better water and air movement.


Practice controlled or rotational grazing methods to prevent overgrazing in specific areas. This promotes even utilisation of the pasture and minimises the risk of compaction in high-traffic zones. Well-managed grazing systems help maintain a healthy balance between vegetation and soil, reducing the risk of compaction.

In summary

Keep track of soil moisture levels to ensure that field operations are conducted under optimal conditions. Working with adequately moist soil reduces the risk of compaction.

The specific approach you take will depend on the unique characteristics of your farm, such as soil type, climate and current management practices. However, taking proactive steps to alleviate compaction and enhance grassland health after a wet winter is essential for sustainable farming.

By combining thoughtful management practices with the right machinery-based tools, you can set the stage for a productive and resilient grassland in the coming season. Regular monitoring, adaptation to changing conditions, and a commitment to soil health will contribute to the long-term success of your grassland management efforts.

Learn more about grassland management