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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 2002-2004
THINK DEEP. High-yielding growers think about farming their soil 12 to even 18 inches deep. By chiseling down residue, they develop a deep soil profile in which to build organic matter and improve the water-holding capacity of the soil. The organic matter produced provides the soil with tilth, which in turn promotes root proliferation that absorbs water. A deep silt loam soil can store up to 10 inches of water. The water stored in this deep, spongy reservoir is absolutely necessary for producing a high- yielding crop. LEAVE ENOUGH RESIDUE. In conservation-till, residue leaves a protective blanket. Residue controls erosion and reduces soil runoff. It also increases infiltration rate, allowing more rain to soak into the soil. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of the rain in the Corn Belt is from thunderstorms. These heavy downpours can be absorbed by residue. In 1960, when the average corn yield harvested was 56 bu/A, only 1.5 tons of surface residue remained. With 170 bu/A yields, however, the quantity rose to almost 4 tons! Of this, a smart grower will use 2 tons for surface erosion control, etc., and incorporate the balance into the soil to produce organic matter that builds soil tilth and productivity. MOTHBALL YOUR MOLDBOARD or donate it to a museum. The moldboard plow, once great as an implement for pioneers to break up the prairies, is obsolete in modern agriculture. Moldboard plowing dries up the soil, wasting valuable water. In addition, exposed soil is subject to oxidation and loss of equally valuable organic matter. There are tools that till soils yet leave a protective surface blanket. AVOID STRATIFICATION. Soil test for nutrients, especially those immobile ones (P and K) that may accumulate in the upper layers of soil. Shallow root systems could result. During July and August, when dry hot days can cause moisture stress, deeper root systems can withstand longer periods of these dry, hot spells. Also test for sulfur and zinc. COLLECT SNOWFALL. If you farm in northern areas, chances are you will receive 2 to 4 inches of water as snow during winters. Sufficient residue soaks up this water and prevents its runoff in the spring. Remember: conserving this water in your soil reservoir may equate to a 2-inch rain during a dry July! PLANT EARLY. For corn growers, planting early might put your pollination ahead of the hot days that often occur in mid-July. Studies have shown that four days of moisture stress during pollination in mid-July can reduce yields 50 percent, whereas a similar four-day stress during the 40 days after crop emergence will cut yields only 10 percent! In addition, a good corn starter will combat low soil temperatures that can reduce N, P, and K uptake during cool springs. FERTILIZEADEQUATELY. You'll increase root exploration deeper into the subsoil. Many studies have shown where roots of fertilized crops have penetrated two feet deeper into the soil than those without fertilizer, resulting in water extractions exceeding four inches. Crop canopy also increased, reducing soil surface evaporation, allowing more water to seep into the soil. Research also shows that better nutrition produces more extensive root systems, which harvest more available water. PLACE PAND K DEEPLY. Root zone banding (RZB) and dual placement of liquids with ammonia are two ways to deep-place fertilizers. This is especially important when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil dries during hot summers and nutrient uptake is jeopardized. Iowa studies surveying moisture-stressed fields have shown that the plants of nearly every field were P deficient. CONTROLWEEDS. We all know weeds compete with plants for available moisture. Enough said. INCREASE POPULATIONS. Research shows that optimum populations increase water-use efficiency. So will narrow rows, and using the right hybrids. Generally speaking, the resulting high yields produce more bushels per inch of available moisture. Ample documentation exists on growers who have obtained up to 11 bushels of corn per inch of water! Ten ways to increase water-use efficiency Early Spring 2003
Fluid Journal 1999-2001
Fluid Journal 2005-2007