April 15, 2022
The weather is turning warmer, and Kansas farmers are preparing to head to the fields. Kansas State University’s Extension staff are working on projects to make sure that they have the information they need now — and in the future — to remain profitable and productive.
K-State and Oklahoma State University have launched a four-year partnership to “identify the long-term environmental and economic viability of cotton production in areas where water scarcity requires the adoption of less water-intensive cropping systems,” according to K-State Research and Extension News.
Specialists from both universities will focus their research experiments on optimizing cotton irrigation and production, and evaluate how cotton production affects soil health in the Central Plains region. The key part of this research is to look at how cotton production might show a better return for applied irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is in troubling decline. Portions of this research will be conducted at the Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City, Kan.
The project is funded by a $750,000 national grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Kansas wheat farmers are already scouting fields coming out of dormancy and may be starting to see yellowing wheat. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, a K-State agronomist, reminds growers not to assume all yellowing wheat is due to nitrogen deficiency.
“One of the factors that might be contributing to yellow wheat this time of year is sulfur deficiency,” Ruiz Diaz says in a video update. The two deficiencies exhibit similar symptoms and can be easily confused.
He reminds crop scouts to consider:
Location of yellowing. Nitrogen deficiency is typically chlorosis in the older, lower leaves of wheat plants. Sulfur deficiency is signaled by chlorosis in the newer, upper leaves this time of year, however.
Application timing. Farmers can apply sulfur now to recoup their wheat’s yield potential, but it has to be in a form that’s easily available for uptake. Options include liquid fertilizers that contain thiosulfate, or dry fertilizers containing ammonium sulfate. You will need moisture to move it into the root zone for uptake as well.
Corn seeding rates
There are many factors that go into a farmer’s corn seeding rate decision, explains Ignacio Ciampitti, K-State Research and Extension agronomist. In Kansas, seeding rates run the gamut from as few as 15,000 seeds per acre in western Kansas, to as high as 28,000 to even 30,000 seeds per acre to the eastern side of the state.
Ciampitti reminds growers that their goal is to ensure as many of the seeds they plant in the ground wind up growing and producing ears of corn. On average, 90% to 95% of planted seeds — which were planted in ideal temperature and moisture conditions — will grow into plants. But if the conditions aren’t ideal, the plant population you attain from your seeding rate could be as much as 20% to 25% below your target.
“The more seeds you put in the ground, the more expensive it is if they don’t convert to plants,” Ciampitti says. “And that’s money that slips away.”
It's tempting to plant at the maximum rate for your region, but that may not be the best decision, Ciampitti explains — especially when you consider your available soil moisture and the potential for moisture this growing season. If water is going to be your limiting factor this year, you may consider reducing your seeding rate by 2,000 or 3,000 seeds per acre, he says. Likewise, if you think you’ll have plenty of available water, the maxim has been to bump up seeding rates by 2,000 or 3,000 seeds per acre, but that only increases your yields by 3 to 4 bushels per acre. Is that added yield and added risk worth the cost of the seed?
“Adding more plants creates more stress, and you aren’t helping the crop,” Ciampitti says. The goal this year should be for farmers to not start their corn crops in a stressful situation and make the field more dependent on rain, he says. It’s better to be more conservative on seeding rates to give the corn crop an opportunity to succeed if the rains don’t come this year, he adds.
Kansas State Research and Extension contributed to this article.
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