Today we will focus on efficiency in crop production and water. The latest Drought Monitor report ties into this. As of this past Tuesday, our area is no longer even moderately dry except for a sliver of northern Barton County and extreme western Rush and Pawnee Counties. Moderate drought has retreated to the western quarter of the state, however, there is still a sliver of severe drought in Southwest Kansas. A large part of efficiency is effective conserving and using resources. Water is certainly a key resource so how do producers efficiently use water to optimize possible crop production? This is by no means a complete list.
• Hybrid/Variety Selection – It is critical to select the proper cultivar for conditions. This includes maturity, cultivar characteristics for soil and climate, resistance to pests, and yield potential. Response under irrigation is also important.
• Conserving soil moisture – Every effort must be made to not lose soil water through evaporation and/or weeds. This means minimizing or where possible eliminating tillage. Surface residue accumulation helps facilitate this.
• Proper fertility – A balanced fertility program with a realistic yield goal serves two purposes. First it allows optimal plant growth for conditions resulting in efficient water use. Secondly, it prevents over fertilization and helps prevent wasting water on unneeded vegetative growth. It has the added benefit of helping control weeds through vigorous crop growth.
• Cultural practices – Planting as early as possible for summer crops or not too early for fall-seeded crops. Selecting the appropriate row spacing and seeding rate are two ways to improve water use efficiency.
• Pest control – Controlling weeds, insects, and diseases has a major impact on improving efficient water use optimizing yield. Anything that minimizes plant stress will. This can be accomplished through genetics, planting date, crop rotation, chemically, etc.
• Irrigation equipment – With irrigation it is important to make sure equipment is in proper working order. Check to make sure the proper nozzles are in place. Where appropriate consider pressure regulating and renozzle to improve efficiency.
• Irrigation scheduling and amount – With irrigation it is critical to monitor crop growth stage, evapotranspiration, and soil moisture status to neither over or under water. Many of these programs are available and K-State has one that is free. Also important is matching irrigation intensity to soil infiltration capacity.