Less than two years ago Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind., and Dennis Brown, who operated his own seed company near Effingham, Ill., joined forces. In addition to his other duties of managing the operation at his site near Effingham, Brown is now in charge of seeing that about 40 acres of practical farm research plots are planted near his facility. That gives the seed company another location and another soil type on which they can test various theories, plus test their own hybrids and how they react to various herbicide and nitrogen applications.
This was Brown's first full-fledged year as a participant in the Practical Farm Research studies, he notes. Needless to say, for his soils, he picked a poor year to start.
"We just kept getting rain after rain last spring, and a lot of our studies had to be replanted," Brown says. The wet weather and saturated spoils kept him focused on plan ting through most of the early part of the growing season.
Soils at his location north and east of Effingham just a few miles from that city along Interstate 70 in southeastern Illinois tend to be silty, with dense layers underneath. The dense layers form into brick-like layers that are very hard for roots to penetrate. They're called fragipans by soil scientists. Many areas in southern Indiana where the last glacier, the Wisconsin glacier, didn't reach are also plagued by fragipans. You can find some in Knox County and more throughout the southern half of Indiana.
White silt coatings that surround these dense blacks typically give the clocks a concrete-block like appearance. If you look in a pit where a fragipan is exposed, you see few roots growing into the dense material. Like compacted layers from working ground too wet or dense till in soils where the glacier left it, roots tend to be detoured when they reach that point.
As a result of the fragipans, which take water a while to penetrate as well, many of these soils are not well-drained. The best case is generally a moderately-well drained or poorly drained soil.
The wet season and his soil types affected results in many of Brown' plots prevented him from keeping pace with yield results from other PFR locations within the Beck's system.
His results were indicative of what many farmers faced in those types of soils in both southeastern Indiana and southwestern Indiana.