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Wet weather wrap-up
Dr. Victor Martin

This past week allowed for progress in the area. The Arkansas River is receding while some land is still too wet for operations; most producers have made inroads with 2019 fieldwork. There is no need to review how wet conditions were. The question really is how do things look now and where do we go from here. This is designed to hit the high points and for many producers, not just here but around the Midwest, the effects will be dealt with for many months or even more than a year.

• Soil – the temptation is to get out there with equipment yesterday. The reality is long-term damage (rutting and especially compaction) occur when soil is wet. Saturated soils don’t really compact as the water prevents particles from moving closer together but they can smear and rut. Wet but not saturated soils compact and it doesn’t take huge loads to do damage. Compaction is detrimental for a number of reasons and can be difficult if not next to impossible to correct. Duals and track vehicles can lessen damage but normally simply allow producers to work on wetter field. The sandier soils south of the river are a bit less susceptible to long-term damage from this.

• Soil fertility – mobile nutrients such as nitrate-N, sulfur, chloride and potassium may have leached above the root zone with all the moisture, especially of sandier soils. Some such as nitrate-N may have been lost to the atmosphere. Unless a producer is sure where they stand, a soil test is an excellent idea, especially for corn, sorghum, and feed ground.

• Wheat – conditions are all over the place but many fields look good to very good and in some places excellent in terms of yield potential. Even many late-planted fields look much, much better than expected. Here the cool conditions and adequate moisture helped. If Mother Nature cooperates, there is a chance for a good to very good harvest. Test weights are likely to be lower with all the rain and a lack of adequate nitrogen (N). N may be lacking if producers held off or were prevented by weather from fertilizing this spring. Also N losses may have occurred due to the previous bullet point. Protein levels likely will suffer from a lack of adequate nitrogen and sulfur. It likely will benefit those producers who paid to fly on pesticides this year. And in thinner fields, weeds will present challenges. 

• Alfalfa – some field have been cut but many are still standing and in full bloom. When cutting these fields, raise the header level to avoid damaging new growth on the crowns. Even though it is tempting to get out to swath, avoid ruts, compaction, as much as possible.

• Corn – Is it too late to plant corn? Maybe. It depends on the maturity of the corn hybrid, how soon you can get in the field, and the price of fall 2019 corn. You can obtain a respectable yield planting now with a shorter season hybrid if the weather cooperates this summer and into fall. It will likely be a lower yield but if corn is a dollar higher than now it might be worthwhile. It might be riskier if a producer is planning to double-crop wheat. A factor to consider for most is crop insurance and will it affect the APH (average production history). Finally, carefully determine there is adequate N and insure proper fertility.

Next week – The conclusion.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.