Make the best of a bad spring

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Spring of 2019 is one everyone would soon like to forget. However, as the growing season progresses, there are several areas of crop growth and development that could be impacted because of the wet field conditions and delayed field work.

In many areas field conditions were marginal at best for the duration of April, May, and June. As a result, field work was performed in wet soils. Although many growers feel they never had adequate conditions and to perform field work, it is important to keep in mind that throughout the growing season we are going to see why agronomists warn against field work in wet soils. Root-restricting compaction is a concern this growing season and evidence of compaction’s significant impact on crop development appeared shortly after emergence of corn this year. In fields where corn was planted under wet conditions, sidewall compaction is evidenced by roots that can only grow in the direction of the seed furrow because they are unable to penetrate the sidewall of the furrow. In fields where roots development is significantly impacted we could likely see nutrient deficiencies, standability issues, and ultimately yield loss. Fields where root development has been impacted should be harvested in a timely manner this fall.

Weed control is always a challenge during a wet spring and the spring of 2019 was no different. Not only did spring weather impact weed control, but a wet fall limited the number of acres where tillage and fall herbicide applications were performed. There are two important aspects of weed management in soybeans that farmers need to keep in mind moving forward: fall herbicide applications and careful selection of herbicide traits in soybeans. Growers who are most effectively controlling weeds in soybeans have been applying herbicides in the fall. These fields are easier to manage in the spring and can be less of a challenge should wet weather delay burndowns.

With the growing number of soybean herbicide traits on the market, growers need to carefully consider what they are planting and keep in mind some problems that occurred this spring. Because of wet weather, burndowns were applied right before planting. Growers were forced to remove herbicide products with plant-back restrictions at the last minute, impacting the efficacy of their burndowns. In other cases, burndowns were not applied, and single-trait herbicide tolerant soybeans emerged leaving growers with a weedy mess to control post- and limited herbicide options. As growers look to the future, they can ensure more effective weed control by choosing soybeans tolerant to multiple modes of action. Doing this will allow growers to eliminate plant-back periods on certain products and give them flexibility that allows for good control of both grass and broadleaf weeds in post- applications of herbicides.

Another area growers should watch as the growing season progresses is disease development in both corn and soybeans. Disease inoculum survives in old crop residue, which allows for the development of disease every year. With the combination of a lack of tillage to bury residues and continued wet weather, certain crop diseases could have a significant impact in 2019. Although some of the important management practices should have already been performed (crop rotation, varietal selection, and tillage) growers still have opportunities to protect their crops from disease. Scouting fields is an important part of a management plan. Growers should walk fields throughout the growing season to determine disease presence and severity. Being able to identify what diseases are present in both corn and soybeans is critical to understanding how to control them and what rescue treatments are available.

Although 2019 has already been one of the most challenging years in recent memory, there are several lessons in crop and weed management we can learn and use to our advantage in the future.


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