I enjoy the outdoors. As I grew older and became a Dad, I have come to appreciate the tranquility of being out in nature. Whether in my deer blind with my bow or out on the lake trying to catch Walleye, there are a few common things that lead to success. Preparation always pays. Doing your homework about moon phases, studying the habitat, and doing some scouting are all keys that lead to success. Being selective about your choices before you commit to a shot or putting a fish in the live well leads to a greater sense of accomplishment when you are done, and above all else, patience is the key element for success.
So here is the quantum leap for this week. Irrigating soybeans is a lot like hunting. Now stay with me here because I think you’ll agree. As I said, preparation always pays. Doing your homework about how your beans are rooting down is key. As I said last week, we have got to do some digging and probing. We need to know about compaction layers and what are roots are doing. In the cases where you have a probe, you can cheat on this a bit and look at that active root area again. As I look at bean fields right now, I am seeing them actively pull moisture from 20”-24”, and pulling 0.05” to 0.08” per day. Studying the habitat equates to knowing what our soils can provide moisture wise on a per foot basis. Sands at 0.60” per foot don’t have the same potential as our Silt Loams with a 1.30”. If we have 2 feet of roots going down, and we are using even ten hundredths per day of moisture, that’s almost two weeks moisture in the second foot we are just tapping into.
Being selective about our choices is just really fancy talk about waiting for the right target before you shoot. I hunting, herd management is key to having trophies down the road and not just settling year after year for a 3X3. Being selective about those early irrigations, and waiting to pull the trigger on the pivot can be the difference between a good yield and a great yield. And it’s not an exact science by any means. I Googled “When should I first irrigate my beans” and I got over 3 Million Results. There is a lot of info there obviously, but the overlying message is often that irrigating too early will hurt yield. Now the only hard part is deciphering what “too early” means. Some years too early is in mid to late July because we get some good rains in July. Other years too early means days or weeks earlier.
So then in the end with hunting or irrigating soybeans, patience can be the most difficult part, but it is also key. Waiting for the beans to root down, waiting for the moisture graph to indicate that the beans are actually stressed for moisture, and not just heat stressed are all paramount. I have seen and heard far too many sources this year telling growers what they want to hear, and that is that they can irrigate. I have heard sources say that we need to avoid any stresses we can to maximize yield. I am going to let you in on a secret. Watering to maximize yield may not be the best strategy. We also need to mitigate disease risk and balance our cost of production. Our end goal is maximum profit, which may or may not correlate with maximum yield. We want to have water move through the soil profile, not keep the surface wet.
Our goal with AquaSystems is to conserve water and maximize profits and yield. It always has been. I am asking you to trust what you see on these water graphs and wait. One thing I have absolutely learned in 18 years of Agronomy is that when we wait to water beans, we usually are rewarded with better yields. I want you to trust the recommendations we make on watering your beans, and I believe we can maximize profits if we go with this strategy.