As I write this, the ground is wet and there are chances of precipitation. While the moisture is very welcomed, producers might be antsy about the timing, as they try to get in the field. Much research reminds producers that plant roots in compacted, wet soil cannot grow properly and are even more vulnerable to disease. Paul Jasa, UNL Extension Engineer wrote an excellent article on CropWatch in 2010 that sidewall compaction during planting can be a problem, especially if the crop is “mudded in” and a dry spell occurs after planting.
Jasa goes on to explain other factors other than wet soils that can contribute to sidewall compaction. Planting too shallow can be a problem; in most conditions corn seed should be planted 2-3 inches deep for proper root development. One also should check their seed-vee closers; a variety of attachments are available to help close the seed-vee if the standard closing devices cannot. He provides specific details and types of attachments that you might consider. For more information, go to the archived CropWatch article. Finally another cause for sidewall compaction is lack of soil structure in some tilled fields.
In addition to subscribing to UNL Extension’s CropWatch electronic newsletter to remain current on research and recommendations to improve your profitability, there is still room for producers who would like to participate in the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network. Protocols can be found on the CropWatch website. Finally, if you haven’t already planned your irrigation management program for the season, I would encourage you to participate in the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network which I’ve worked with for the past 7 ½ years.
A couple of the tools we use are ETgages® or Atmometers which mimic crop evapotranspiration or ET and Watermark soil matrix sensors which measure soil matric potential or the energy required to remove water from the soil. These two tools have really worked well and have made irrigation management much easier than those gut feelings. The more information you have the better decisions you can make!
If you would like to participate in this dynamic program, let me know and I’d be happy to help and get you started! If you are in the NAWMN, consider installing your ETgage soon and once done with planting, start the soaking/drying cycle on your Watermark sensors to be sure they work! It’s also important to replace the #54 alfalfa canvas covers and wafers on a regular basis at the start of each season. For more information, go to UNL Extension’s Water Website.