By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Safety first when planning deep tillage or earthwork: Call before you dig!
Stacy Campbell
Stacy Campbell

With harvest complete and some relatively mild temperatures heading into winter, farmers might take to the field for deep tillage such as ripping, or to make earthwork repairs around the farm. A few days before you want to start these activities, call 811 for your safety and to prevent expensive damage to underground utilities. The website,, has easy-to-follow instructions for requesting this free service and detailed information concerning why you need to know what’s below.

A video produced by Marathon Oil tells the story of a farm family and their close call with a pipeline when installing tile drains. The landowner knew where the pipeline entered and exited the field, and they assumed the pipeline was straight – it wasn’t. Watch this 6-minute, eye-opening video for the whole story:

Sadly, fatal accidents do happen in soil excavations. If you dig any trenches or soil pits, safety should be considered from the very beginning of the project. Soils with sandy textures are more susceptible to collapse than soils with a higher clay content. If standing water is present in the pit, the walls are more apt to collapse. Digging in soils that have been disturbed before, such as digging next to a hydrant or foundation, means that the soil is far less stable than you might expect if that soil had never been disturbed before.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines exist on excavation safety, such as when it is necessary to shore the walls of a soil pit or trench. One important consideration is soil should be piled a minimum of 2 feet away from the walls of the trenches for two reasons: 1) Soil clods or excavating tools could roll back into the trench and cause injury to occupants. 2) It helps reduce the risk of a trench collapse by keeping the weight of the soil piles away from the trench edges.

Even if a soil pit is 5 feet deep or less, it is a good idea to angle the edges, especially if the texture is sandy, the soil is wet, or if the soil is otherwise unstable. This does create more disturbance, but if it prevents an accident, it’s worth it.

For more information on trenching and excavation safety, see the following OSHA publication:

Trenching and Excavation Safety,

New in January 2024 – K-State Corn and Soybean Schools held together

In January 2024, look for a new format for the traditional K-State Corn and Soybean Winter Crop Schools. K-State Research and Extension, in collaboration with Kansas Corn and Kansas Soybean, has combined the schools for a whole-day program covering both crops. Save the date for one of the locations near you.

2024 - State Corn and Soybean Crop Schools

Jan. 16 (Tuesday) – Parsons K-State Southeast Research and Extension Center. 

Jan. 17 (Wednesday) – Hesston Agco Corporation.

Jan. 18 (Thursday) – Garden City, Corteva Agriscience Research Center.

Jan. 19 – Olathe, John Deer Ag Marketing Center.

Stay tuned to the weekly Agronomy eUpdate in the coming weeks for the complete agendas and how to register. To sign up for the eUpdate 

Stacy Campbell is an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Cottonwood Extension District. Email him at or call the Hays office, 785-628-9430.