Patience and Roots

Patience & Roots from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

I recently spent several days on a fishing trip where the fish were not biting. Now for me, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I was on a quiet lake, just floating and relaxing away from the busyness of the world. But I had my 12-year-old son with me, and at 12 years old, you can only go so long without something to draw your attention. On this particular trip, that was switching gears away from the Walleye and Bass and going fishing for Perch. But the patience and the lack of action had me thinking about roots and water a lot as well.

I know that it has been a long season already. Near my place up North, I don’t think the irrigation motors have been off in 45+ days. That makes managing water tough. But I know the greater majority have had some rain here and there. The significance of that rain is highly debatable though. Some areas have had 3”+ in 2 hours, others have had 0.25” here and there. As I look around the area though, I see a lot of issues. On this graph, we have a corn plant that is tasseling, and it is showing root activity down at 36”. This is a best case scenario. As this plant transitions from vegetative growth into reproductive growth, root growth is pretty well wrapped up. When have a massive foundation under this factory to begin production.

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In contrast, we have this corn that will tassel in about a week. We have not seen a lot of root activity below 16” this season to date, and will likely not see a whole lot more development before the plant transitions its role.

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In both cases, we have had rain or irrigation at very similar times, and in both cases, the grower did a good job of managing his profile as we don’t see much infiltration past 12” at any point in the season. So why the big difference? That is the million-dollar question. I don’t have the answer, but I have a couple of hypotheses.

One grower is doing strip till and the other is a no-till farmer. I won’t say that this would make the same difference every year, but this year early root development matters immensely. Nutrient availability and seed bed preparation look to have made a difference. The no-till grower had a Hydraulic Downforce system and applied less than 100#’s of downforce on this area of the field, so I know from that and scouting we don’t have hatchet roots. As we transition into August and our innovation Site Days across CVA, we will have a root pit in places. As you look at that root pit, think about how root development this year can vary so much from grower to grower.

And therein lies my take-home for the day. Both of these growers are good farmers that don’t make many mistakes. They have managed well to this point in the season, but find themselves worlds apart in how they will need to manage the rest of the year. My point is that neither one failed, but that they both understand the hand they were dealt. Working with their Agronomist, they both understand how they will have to manage from pollination on to be successful this year, and it’s because of their AquaSystems Program that they know this. Is it a bigger challenge the rest of the year for the second Grower, sure it is. But with the ability to measure comes the increase ability to manage.