Space and Shape

Space & Shape from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

I’ve mentioned here before—and not too long ago—some weirdness that we might expect in root architecture this season.  Every growing season comes with its challenges, but this spring was particularly remarkable. There is definitely weirdness in the roots this year.  It varies by tillage system, planting date, and soil type, but nonetheless, there is more this year than most.

And there’s not a lot we can do about it right now except take the opportunity to learn and look toward the future.  This is by no means to write the year off, of course, but rather to say yes to the lesson in front of us.

Which is what we’ve done for this year’s RD Innovation Days, less than a month away as you read this.  We’ll be in Bellwood on August 3rd, Cuba on the 8th, and Randolph on the 10th.

Like many of your fields, the RD field at Bellwood in particular was showing some real root issues.  The tillage system in place there and the weather after planting contributed to limited root development that we noted relatively early on, simply by digging plants up.  We took the opportunity to experiment with an aggressive treatment utilizing y-drops to strategically place nutrients.  The plants responded well to the treatment and we noticed a big change in root development that we’ll unveil at the RD Day there alongside other lessons learned about successfully nurturing a root system.

Because the lessons learned this season are widely applicable to any hybrid in any season.  We deal with roots all the time every day and access to nutrients is the name of the game (which is why y-drops stand to be such a game changer).   This season reminds us that our job is to create the path of least resistance to nutrients and water, creating which can include advanced technology like y-drops but, lest you despair at another mention of advanced technology, also includes making smart everyday decisions like choosing a hybrid with a root system that is compatible to the specifics of your operation.  Fibrous root systems, for example, are best in no-till situations or conventional-till situations with broadcast applications; penetrating root systems are best in deep soils or strip till operations.

So learn something today.  Go dig up a few plants and conduct a visual assessment, then store that information away for future use with a similar hybrid.  And learn something in a few weeks by joining us at one of our RD days.  This spring certainly won’t be the last challenging stretch you’ll encounter as a grower, but next time one happens upon you, you’ll be better equipped to respond and nurture your plants’ root systems through.