Okay, friends. It’s halftime in the big game.
And any team worth its salt takes the opportunity to check where it’s at and readjust.
So, it is time, people. Time to evaluate our current situation (read: yield potential) and decide how to adjust (or not), especially regarding our fertility program.
Since you don’t have a coach barking in your ear in the locker room, allow me to offer three principles to assist you through your reappraisal:
Start with how your stands look.
It’s actually a very good time to estimate yield potential. Plants are developed enough (or not) right now to indicate whether you count on them to produce or not. But determining how your stands look requires just a bit more sweat than moseying out into the field with a cup of coffee and taking an eyeful. That’s Step One. Step Two involves a shovel. Because to really know how your stands look, you’ve got to know how their roots look.
If you find that your yield potential is outstripping your original projections, how very awesome is that and how very important it is to adjust your fertility program accordingly. Start with a gut check: don’t worry about the math behind a yield estimate right now, just ask yourself this: Does it look like my ield potential is greater than when I started? If yes, plan to lay down additional N. How much? Well, that depends on your perspective, of course. How much are you willing to invest in your potential? Then, talk with your Central Valley Field Sales Agronomist.
Of course, nobody is ever excited, even when the reasons are good, to spend on yet more input, so be smart about enacting changes to your fertility and spend money where you’ll make money. Those acres that look fantabulous, they’re your horses. Invest additional N in such acres to compensate for the ones you’ll ignore (regarding additional N): the ones that are flooded, ponded, and otherwise negatively affected by water.
Keep an eye toward nutrient loss.
Speaking of acres negatively affected by water: they’re where to start in your evaluation of nutrient loss. Determine your situation on a field by field basis, paying particular attention to ponded soils and yellow plants. If you’ve experienced this year’s excessive rains, don’t be surprised to find both.
If you see signs that concern you, this is where tissue and soil samples come in very handy. They can tell you where the N is, whether that’s in your plants or somewhere deep in the soil profile. Then, you can adjust your fertility accordingly. (To tamp down on your possible fears about nutrient loss: it happens, but the gap is typically smaller than you think it will be.)
Plan how to manage through it.
In addition to the need to reevaluate yield expectations and consider the impact of nutrient loss, our rain should also compel us to reevaluate the need for a fungicide and compel us to begin plotting an irrigation plan for when it does (finally) shut off.
Rain brings disease issues, so even if you weren’t originally planning a fungicide treatment, that might be a decision to revisit now. As with additional N, you can be smart about a fungicide treatment and spend money only where you’ll make it back and then some. Check out your hybrid information and compare it to the status of your fields. If you find fields with high yield potential, but low disease resistance from your hybrid, hit ‘em with a treatment soon. Fields with an average potential and average resistance are next on the list. Fields with low potential and high resistance get your remaining attention, or potentially, none at all. Treating your most prolific and responsive acres first stacks the deck in your favor.
And finally, think about the future of water in your fields. The rain is going to stop sometime. When it does, what will you do? Go back to the plants you dug up to evaluate the quality of your stand earlier and check them out. Compare them to your hybrid information on root architecture. Some hybrids boast fibrous root systems, others are penetrating, other are somewhere in between. The architecture combined with the particular development you see in your fields will give you cues about the best way to approach irrigation for the remainder of the season. They’ll tell you where the water needs to be, and how well you can expect your plants to continue to pull water from the soil once the rain is over.
One last principle I might add to my short list is this: be realistic. Managing with rose colored glasses on won’t help you. You’ll end up disappointed and/or a bit ticked. Be situationally aware and manage to the situation at hand. You’ll be able to respond effectively to the deficiencies and challenges that may have sprung up so far through our challenging season and you might even find yourself with a remarkable yield come harvest.