July 20, 2018
Not much has changed in the last week. A few places received limited rain. A couple of spots were more fortunate. We are still bone dry. I broke a soil test probe trying to retrieve a sample for a nitrate/nitrite test. I bought a new probe and had to use a sledge hammer to drive it in the ground. The test may be futile, as it takes water to move nutrients into the plant. And if it’s that hard, you know roots aren’t going to be growing much.
The cooler temps are appreciated as I sit in my truck with the windows down at the local airport typing tonight. Though we have probably spent our last dollar on dryland fields, we are still chasing after irrigated yields. I’m tending the plane with plant health products.
This may be a year where there is a huge difference in production where water is available. With a low price, bushels are even more important, especially if we end up being an isolated dry spot. We will re-evaluate dryland fields after we get a rain.
Irrigation in Indiana is not designed for this. Most systems are set up as supplemental, meaning some rainfall is expected. I have already put my name on the list to have a well drilled after the season. We have one group of fields where I am maxed out at about 1.4” per week. Crop needs are between 2.5 inches to 3 inches a week.
We expect soil to hold some of that for us, but it isn’t going to be enough during extended dry spells such as this. We were at soil capacity four weeks ago, let’s assume that is 4 inches. If we apply 1.4 inches per week and use up another 1 inch from the soil profile, doing the math, we won’t be able to meet the crop’s full need before long.
The last time we were in a similar situation was 2012. The opposite of this year, 2012 started off dry and got drier, then rains came late. In 2012 we determined after the fact we may have been better off to abandon a couple of circles and focus on more water on less area. Each year is different.
On the plus side, going from wet to dry means we are able to get some trouble spots drained. Since it was wet early, there are no crops on those sites that flooded out. Since it is dry now we are able to do work with minimal crop damage (only going to and from the spots).
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.
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