Working my way up through Jennings County into southern Bartholomew County through the country on a March day, with snow melting but still hanging around in places, a pattern became evident in field after field. All the fields where I noticed the pattern were soybean fields which had not been disturbed. The residue left by the combine remained on the surface.
The snow tended to remain in narrow five- to 10-foot strips spaced across the field. The pattern was more regular in some fields than in others. In between the strips of snow the ground was bare, except for the soybean stubble. What was causing this pattern of melting?
There are at least three theories. You may have your own.
Residue? Tile lines?
Barry Fisher talked at a meeting earlier this year about the importance of spreading soybean residue evenly behind the combine across the width of the head, he says that sets the foundation for no-till corn. Heavier concentrations of residue are likely to remain cooler in the spring. Fisher is a precision technology specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Are those places behind the combine where more chaff may have fallen cool enough to cause snow to melt more slowly? It's my theory. If so, then it means people who saw that pattern might want to take a second look at how their combine spreads residue and chaff during soybean harvest.
Clint Arnholt, Columbus, believes the areas with snow left may be uneven places crops the field. If the field was tilled before beans, there may be areas just low enough to hold snow, while it's melted off the higher spots. That's his theory.
There's also a theory about tile lines, although that one may be harder to support. You would need an explanation why it was cooler over the tile lines where the snow might have stayed around longer.
Whatever the case, there was some factor at work causing the pattern. Understand the pattern and you might gain insight into a management tip that could help you do a better job.
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