If there’s one thing for certain in farming, it’s that you can never really predict the weather.
Kansas State University cropping systems specialist Ignacio Ciampitti says this spring’s conditions have been particularly vexing for the state’s corn and soybean growers, and it may cause many of them to re-think their management strategies.
“One of the main issues we are facing today is simply planting the crop,” Ciampitti said.
“For those that planted in mid- to late-April, they may be facing a problem due to the temperatures not being as high as expected for this time of year. And in some areas, there was quite a bit of rain, so the crop is having to respond to two factors – temperature and water.”
In areas where there was excess rain, some corn fields had standing water, Ciampitti said, causing that crop to grow slowly. “What we will start seeing after the water recedes, in some situations, is that those plants will start dying,” he said.
It’s caused concern for this year’s corn yields, but one solution could be re-planting in some areas of the field. Ciampitti said farmers should scout their fields and make a determination on the number of plants affected. Farmers will then have a better idea on whether it makes sense economically to re-plants parts of the field.
“The number one priority (as of mid-May) is to make sure that you plant your fields,” Ciampitti said. “As soon as you have any time, and it may be between rains, make sure you go back to those fields that you planted early and do some scouting. That will help you to assess the level of damage and put some strategy regarding what fields you should need to go about right away.”
Farmers who are thinking about re-planting should also be cognizant of the late May deadlines for planting as they relate to crop insurance. “If you plant after the deadline, you will not be able to insure the entire crop,” he said.
“I still think farmers should be emphasizing planting the seed in the right soil conditions”.
Ciampitti said that the planting window for soybeans is much more broad than for corn. He noted that soybeans planted in mid-June, for example, have “yielded well as compared to those planted in mid-to-late May in past years.”
“(Soybean yields) will depend basically on what the conditions are when we get to the middle of August to September, which is the moment that the soybean is setting pods and filling seeds,” he said.
Ciampitti said that standing water in fields also can affect soybean yields.
“If soybean plants are submerged for less than 48 hours, there is a good chance they will survive,” he said. “Plants can survive under water longer under cool than warm temperatures. Submerged soybean plants can survive for up to seven days when temperatures are less than 80 degrees F.”
To find out whether the soybeans are damaged after the water recedes, he said, split the stem at the tip and examine the growing point. A healthy growing point will be firm and white or cream colored. A soft, dark growing point indicates injury. In some cases, he said, the silt coating the plant after short-term flooding can cause more injury and plant death than the water itself.
“Injury can depend on variety, growth stage, duration of waterlogging, soil texture, fertility levels, and diseases present,” Ciampitti said. “The interactions of these factors make it hard to predict how a given soybean field will react to waterlogged soils.”