Know what’s happening in your fields: Overcoming poor soil temperatures

It seems that the only thing to stay the same is that weather continues to change and present different challenges each year. I have probably paid more attention to weather this season than any season in the past, trying to understand and plan for shipping needs based on when conditions will be right for planting. I had a structural engineer ask me recently what the soil temperatures were because he knew that 50 degrees was considered a magic number for starting to get things going. I explained to him that in many places in the country right now, it looked like the calendar may override the soil temperatures and push people into the field more than in other years.

All that said, we are likely to have some crops in the field this year that are slow to start and may struggle at the first few stages of development. As most of you reading this will know, a good fertility program at planting time will be your greatest asset in cold, wet spring soils. It is also important to remember micronutrients in your planter time program. If the roots struggle to get established, they are in contact with less soil initially. This can provide a real benefit to the use of micronutrients at planting time. If you have not considered putting micros in your planter program, this would be a good year to invest in that.

Once the crop is emerged and established, watch for additional deficiencies. Many pest control products can be combined with small amounts of nutrition to assist in early development when applications are required at early stages. AgroLiquid founder, Douglas Cook always encouraged growers to place 2 quarts of a good foliar with every trip across the field. With the cost of making the application, a little fertility is a great way to leverage your investment.

Other factors that we don’t often think about also affect nutrient availability. Compaction is one that is critical in years where we get off to a slow start. We have to get into the field as soon as possible to protect against yield loss from a shortened season. That also affects drainage and results in reduced aeration in the soil. Beneficial fungi and bacteria will have a more difficult time symbiotically assisting with nutrient transport and uptake. This is another good argument for nutrients placed in the zone of uptake in seasons like this.

There are a lot of additional considerations this year, not unlike most other years. I would encourage you to walk some fields when you are finished planting and pay particular attention to symptoms of delayed emergence and the effects of cold soils. Use every tool you have to give your crop the best opportunity for a successful season and remember that a slow start doesn’t have to mean a poor finish. Our greatest opportunities are often waiting right behind the obstacle that shields our view.


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