What can I learn during drier summer conditions?
When growing conditions are dry, crops use the moisture that they can reach. The crop’s root reach and root mass density can help acquire more moisture for the plant. Any factor that hinders root reach is a negative. Some of these factors are sidewall compaction at planting and any type of tillage when soil was too wet, including vertical tillage for the purpose of drying out the soil.
Soil insect control is also crucial. In corn, the Rootworm Bt trait can sometimes fall short. Rootworm Bt controls rootworm after they feed on the roots. This allows rootworms to chew the roots back. If rootworms are prevalent, a lot of roots will be consumed to control all the rootworms which will leave plants with few roots to be support and supply the nutrients and water to the plant.
How do hybrids and varieties perform under drought stress? Holding on to yield capability during dry weather stresses can make a big difference in harvest yields. The crop’s transpiration can make a difference in the water required for the plant. Transpiration is water vapor that passes through the leaf membranes. The higher the water loss means that more water is required for this plant. Researching and publishing this information about hybrids and varieties is quite recent. If the information is not published about the seed you plant, ask your seed company for the transpiration research and evaluation of their hybrids and varieties. Evaluate your chosen hybrids and varieties to decide which ones are better and which ones do not have a future on your farm!
While dry weather is a disappointment, it is also a key opportunity to discover the variability of your fields. Spatial yield data from a dry year is important information for managing your fields. It reveals the level of risk associated with dry weather, which is a tool for future management.
Pay attention to plant populations. Which population performs better when conditions are drier? Do your fields have areas within them that would yield more if plant population was increased or decreased?
Take advantage of the hidden opportunities that are revealed when you capture the information about your fields and farms that dry weather reveals!
Lynford Kurtz – September 2016