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Photo by Lea Kimley.

Watch for early-season crop development challenges

Matt Hutcheson

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

The 2020 growing season continues to be challenging for Ohio’s farmers. Wet spring conditions with large rainfall events have created some issues that will continue to impact Ohio’s crops throughout the growing season.

Adverse weather conditions have significantly impacted emergence and early crop development. In some areas of the state, fields were planted early and then exposed to weather extremes such as saturated soils and freezing temperatures below 28 degrees F. In other parts of Ohio, fields planted into tough conditions in mid-May struggled to develop and were eventually replanted. Anyone who has driven around the state in the last few weeks knows that poor emergence, variable emergence and thin plant stands are a common sight.

Not only have adverse spring field conditions impacted final plant stands, but some issues that exist as a result of the wet weather will linger throughout the season. Seedlings have struggled to get established in crusted soils, saturated soils, and flooded areas of fields. Compaction, root restrictions, and damage to plants will hinder crop development throughout the growing season. Agronomists and growers who have walked fields this spring while taking stand counts have also observed compaction due to saturated soils and field work during wet soil conditions. The lingering impacts of this compaction will last for several years, ultimately hindering plant development and reducing yields.

In the coming months, growers must continue to monitor fields and make sound decisions to ensure crops achieve their best possible yield potential. With growing farm size and increasing distractions, it is easy to forgo scouting. Although it is time consuming, scouting fields is a critical piece to producing a successful crop.

With the increasing presence of weeds such as waterhemp, growers must be vigilant concerning weed development in their fields and employ herbicide programs that effectively control weeds while eliminating the production and spread of weed seeds. With the plethora of herbicide and trait options, growers should work with their agronomist to ensure effective weed control as well as crop safety. As always, following the label is a must.

Scouting fields and observing crop development with the ability to make rescue treatments will be key to producing crops with top-end yield potential. With the existing compaction and root restrictions as a result of saturated soils this spring, growers should be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies. With poor root development, crops can show signs of nutrient deficiencies, even where soil fertility is adequate. In the last several years agronomists have seen an increase in sulfur deficiency as fields are not receiving as much sulfur from the environment due to improvements in air pollution. In areas where heavy rain and saturated soils exist late into the growing season, nitrogen deficiency will likely appear as a result of N loss. In some cases, nutrient deficiencies will need to be corrected to avoid yield loss.

Growers should also be on the lookout for diseases. The inoculum for many diseases is always present in crop residue, however, these diseases only become a problem under the right environmental conditions. Many yield-limiting diseases such as northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and frogeye leaf spot can be controlled if identified and treated in a timely manner. Some disease symptoms such as sudden death syndrome can be a sign that other issues (compaction) exist. Disease presence can also help growers make future decisions on crop rotation, tillage, or varietal selection.

Although Ohio’s crops have gone through many stresses during the spring of 2020, there is still potential for very good yields. The key to achieving these top yields will be closely monitoring fields and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season.

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