By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.
Following a wet growing season in 2019, some of the issues facing growers in 2020 are lingering from the previous growing season.
Due to the excessively wet weather in the spring of 2019, many fields have compaction that will impact crop development and yields for years to come. Growers should alleviate compaction when conditions allow. Tillage should be performed only when soil conditions are favorable. Tillage under wet or “marginal” conditions will only make compaction problems worse. Compaction is a huge yield killer, as Randall Reeder and Alan Sundermeier wrote in a recent C.O.R.N. Newsletter: “Years of OSU Extension research on Hoytville silty clay loam showed that through compaction, 10% to 15% of the potential crop yield was being left in the field.” Farmers should plan to alleviate compaction when possible and avoid traffic on wet soil this spring.
Weed control in soybeans will continue to be a challenge between herbicide tolerant weeds and the plethora of soybean herbicide traits available to growers. Producers should focus on choosing high yielding varieties with solid defensive characteristics in combination with a herbicide trait that allows them to achieve effective control of weeds. For effective weed control, university experts recommend starting with a weed free field, use of effective burndowns, as well as residual herbicides. Although there are some herbicides that are very effective at controlling problem weeds, a program approach must be used to allow for continued efficacy and to hinder the development of herbicide resistance in weeds.
One lesson we learned during the wet spring of 2019 was the importance of being prepared to go to the field early and building flexibility into management plans. Over the last several years we have seen a pattern of extremely wet and unpredictable spring weather. The key to a successful planting season is being ready to head to the field when soil and weather conditions allow. One source of additional delays in a wet spring can be herbicides applied in a burndown with plant-back restrictions. Growers should consider what herbicides they plan on using and be ready to make changes if necessary. Choosing soybean herbicide traits that allow for an effective burndown and flexibility in planting timing will minimize planting delays this spring.
With all the field work that needs to be done in the spring, it is always important to keep field conditions in mind. With compaction from spring of 2019 lingering, farmers must avoid performing field work in wet soils and creating additional compaction. Research has proven that early planting is one management practice that leads to increased yields. Although planting early is important, it is just one of many factors that affect yield. Planting early favors high yields but does not guarantee them.
“Mudding-in” seed early to beat a certain date on the calendar will almost always guarantee problems throughout the growing season. To avoid problems such as compaction, poor emergence, poor root development, and replant, growers should only plant early if field and weather conditions are conducive to adequate seed germination and plant growth. Planting should only occur when soil is dry enough to avoid compaction and soil temperatures are 50 degrees F or higher. This will ensure that the best possible conditions for germination and stand establishment exist.
No matter what challenges arise during the 2020 growing season, the successful grower will be the one who observes what is happening in the field, keeps up to date on important agronomic information, and makes timely and sound decisions based on that information.