I learned the term “false spring” from the movie “The Shootist.” It was the very touching movie starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and Jimmy Stewart. Actually it has a who’s who of notable actors at the time. If I attempted an extended list I might leave someone out.
Ron Howard was the young and restless guy.
The Wayne and Bacall characters discussed the “false spring.” I’m not sure if it’s an official term or more of an urban dictionary one. It has a definition you might guess. It’s a term that might occur to you now as you look outside at the unusual weather behavior.
Such unseasonable warmth spells “false spring.” Look at the calendar and it’s shocking. We should be in the final throes of winter. We ought to still feel a chill on many days. This unusual warm will bring on some unexpected conditions and one of those is warmer than normal soil temperatures, and those warmer soil temps, you guessed it, have an effect on the Nitrogen we have or are about to apply as well as out winter annual weed populations.
So this presents both a potential problem and an opportunity for us to ponder over the course of the next week. So first the potential problem which is on the Nitrogen we have applied thinking that the year was going to be somewhat “Normal” and then it is anything but. Over the course of the last few weeks the soil has been hovering just above that 50oF mark all across the Central Valley Ag footprint which has allowed us to get a lot of work done but still leaves us right where Nitrification really starts to get some momentum.
At 50oF it takes about 19 days to covert 50% of your applied Nitrogen from the ammonium form to nitrate which as we all know is subject to leaching to just outside the reach of the corn plant in the future. That 19 days is exactly twice as fast as a similar soil at 41o F. There isn’t anything we can do now about the Nitrogen we applied other than keep an eye out for signs of stress down the road and have a plan for how we are going to remediate those potential losses. But for the Nitrogen you have left to apply I would consider the use of a nitrogen stabilizer or splitting those applications up to take advantage of timing down the road.
The opportunity that is in front of us comes with our ability to have greater control on the winter weed populations and keeping fields weed free overall. The weeds that are actively growing today are ripe for the killing if we get out there in the next week or so, and it is getting just late enough to be able to have confidence that if we put down any kind of residual chemistry that it will be able to hold for the length of time we really need.
The time between now and planting also will allow us to use other options of weed control like the 2-4D products that need a wider window between now and planting. These additions will greatly improve efficacy of our early burndowns and getting that clean weed free start we are looking for.
I’m sure between the time of me writing this article and you reading it the weather will have changed, because well it’s Nebraska. Even if it does change, the fact of the matter is that biological processes are happening already and are only going to speed up as things warm again by picking up right where they left off.