As we traverse corn fields chopping or combining, it is a key time to see if you have maximized yield. Several times in trials on farms I found I could pull corn plants up with no effort. The majority of roots were in the top 3 inches. Fall soil sampling (the best time) to maximize fertilizer inputs smartly and effectively, will often show the soil limitations as the probe hits compacted layer or can’t go in the ground at all. Soil compaction impacts root depth and available water. It can severely limit the available nutrients. They are there but can’t be reached. As farms and tractor size get bigger and “we HAVE to get this done” attitude, compacted soils will come up and bite you in the backside. We often blame bad weather (too much or too little rain). Use shovel to feel the compaction and to look at roots’ growth and pattern.