Soil responses to deep (30–35 cm) and normal (15–20 cm) mouldboard ploughing, chisel ploughing and zero-tillage have been compared for 7 years in a field experiment growing continuous spring barley near Edinburgh. The soil was of variable texture, from moderately well-drained sandy loam overlying loam to imperfectly to poorly drained sandy clay loam overlying clay loam, classified as stagnogleyic brown earth to cambio stagnogley soil. Soils of this type derived from Carboniferous till are widely used for cereal production in south-east Scotland. Measurements of soil physical properties were made at crop emergence, midseason and at harvest to characterize seasonal and long-term responses to tillage and traffic. After the first 3 years bulk density responses varied little within or between seasons, showing a compacted horizon from 0–15 cm under zero-tillage and a looser horizon from 21–33 cm under deep ploughing compared with normal ploughing. Immediately below the depth of normal ploughing there was no difference in bulk density between this treatment and zero-tillage while in some years the chisel-ploughing treatment was denser. Moisture content responses on a weight basis, together with air-filled porosity responses, showed large differences between treatments particularly at the time of crop emergency, indicating substantial alterations in the soil profile hydrology. Expressed on a volume basis the increased moisture content near the surface under zero-tillage became more pronounced and the other effects disappeared. Cone resistance responses were proportionately larger than those for bulk density and showed one major difference in that below the depth of ploughing cone resistance was greater for zero-tillage than normal ploughing in the sixth and seventh seasons, but not previously. For bulk density, but probably not for cone resistance, there were no increases after the third season of zero-tillage, the soil reaching an equilibrium density for the current management practices and machinery usage.