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Wet Spring Issues - Why So Irreparable?

We’ve all heard of the phrase “A medicine in moderation is a poison in excess”. In agronomy, excess water is no different. When soils become fully saturated through flooding and heavy rain events, oxygen levels in the soil are used up quickly by microbial life and crops. This leads to “anaerobic” conditions, simply, lack of oxygen in the soil.  


Flooding and heavy rain events cause loss of nutrients through leaching and erosion. The excess water will not penetrate the soil and eventually will flow off the farm. Synthetic Nitrogen fertilizers are water soluble, so they flow along with the water. When floods move nutrients off the farm, soil efficacy decreases and growers are faced with increasing production costs. This also starts a chain reaction and leads to anaerobic conditions. 


What do anaerobic conditions cause? 

  • Root growth to stop

  • Photosynthesis to decline

  • Nutrient availability to decrease in crops


Why are wet spring issues, actually issues? 

Currently, the Midwest is dealing with drastic increases in rain levels with some areas receiving over 8 times the normal amount of rain. This causes their fields to become oversaturated, harming crop development, causing delays in planting, or requiring full replanting over a month late. All of these factors eventually lead to high-cost damage control measures. 


Corn is an example of a crop type that is facing risk, especially at this time of the year. Corn is usually around the V6 stage in the Midwest in the month of June. It can only survive 2-4 days of saturated soil conditions prior to the V6 stage of development. Consistent flooding at this stage means that producers must replant over a month late or forfeit yields in those areas for the year. Surely, a year setback is not something that any grower wants to face. Cool, wet conditions are a breeding ground for common pathogens that harm early-stage corn development causing even greater reductions in yield. Not only will this require damage control, but it will also be a waste of fertilizer and a ground for pollution. Most importantly, a timely intervention will mean everything to reduce costs. If mitigation strategies are applied in- season, growers will still face replanting, refertilizing, significant yield losses, losses due to diseases and overall enormous costs. 


How can we fix wet spring issues? 

With visionary management strategies, growers can deal with the increasingly large swings between excess moisture and drought conditions. A key driver of creating soil resilience to these swings is their ability to increase the organic matter percentage over time. For every 1% increase in organic matter, the soil can hold 20,000 more gallons of water. However, over the past 100 years, soil organic matter has been on the decline in midwest soils while the swings between over-saturation and drought are increasing. 


There are many methods growers can use to work to increase their organic matter rates. The most important aspect is knowing where you are going - whether your operation is increasing or decreasing its organic matter and therefore, its resilience over time. Extreme excess and deficiency of water and severe weather events are likely to rise. Their soils must be trending towards helping them mitigate irregular weather patterns rather than working against them. Hence, regular soil testing and soil & plant health analysis is crucial for detecting organic matter levels before they appear to be an issue. 


SoilBeat platform can provide an all-in-one platform to view soil & plant data together. This allows growers and field consultants to detect issues based on field data, which allows for an early intervention. We may not be able to predict weather conditions but we sure can intervene in our soil’s organic matter levels! 

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