Most farms, in most years, will experience a dry patch. And this year may be worse than others. A quick look at the U.S. drought monitor shows more than half of the U.S. is undergoing an “extreme” or “exceptional drought” that’s especially severe in the south and southeast.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps farmers can take to prepare for drought and reduce drought stress:
Improve your soil’s infiltration. Water moving from the surface into the soil profile is called infiltration. Reducing drought stress begins by ensuring that any rain over the season is used effectively. Any water that ponds up or runs off the field during storms needs to be addressed. Tile drainage solutions are an excellent long-range plan, but many farmers can reduce ponding by limiting tillage and keeping the surface covered with crop residue or a cover crop.
Protect the roots. Soil compaction is a double-whammy when it comes to infiltration. It can create restrictive layers that the roots have trouble penetrating while creating channels that divert available water away from the plants. Other effects of compaction include decreased organic matter, increased erosion and nutrient leaching. Reducing or eliminating this compaction is an easy fix that farmers can make to improve soil infiltration and plant health, especially in soils high in clay and low in organic matter, making them prone to compaction issues. Building up the organic matter with residue or cover crops can help promote better soil structure while decreasing soil bulk density, which improves infiltration. Wheel compaction from equipment, particularly during tillage operations, is a primary cause of compaction. Reducing or eliminating tillage can build up soil structure and improve microbial activity; if tillage is required, varying the tools and depth can make a positive difference. Whenever possible, avoid running equipment on wet soil to reduce severe compaction in the soil layers.
Use biostimulants to give the roots a faster start. A biostimulant isn’t a fertilizer providing nutrition, and it’s not a fungicide or pesticide that targets disease and pests. Instead, it’s a substance or microorganism applied to the plants that enhance nutrition efficiency, reduces abiotic stress (drought and heat) and improves overall crop quality. All farmers will face drought conditions at some point, so making the most of every inch of rainfall is critical. Protecting root growth during the early development of the plant and ensuring that the roots have access to the nutrients they need for sustained growth is the best defense.
Agnition Has Biostimulant Solutions to Help Your Crop Excel, Even When Water is Limited
Biostimulants can be used as a seed treatment, applied in-furrow or broadcast over the field. No matter the application, the aim is the same: plant health. Healthier plants have greater stress tolerance thanks to a larger root mass which improves the plant’s ability to take up nutrients.
For example, Commence® stimulates microbes in the soil environment to deliver essential nutrients, promoting faster emergence, greater root mass and better overall plant vigor. Generate® is a separate biostimulant that makes nutrients more available to encourage greater root mass. The more root mass a plant has, the more area it can explore for water and nutrients. Conversely, roots that are pruned by insects or nematodes or restricted by compacted layers are confined to a smaller area to take up water and nutrients and are therefore more likely to suffer when conditions become dry.
See the benefits of Commence and Generate on you farm! Contact us to learn more.