When Irrigating in A Dry Year
In our last blog, we started the conversation about what to do when faced with irrigating in a dry year. Using the least amount of water possible while still getting a good yield is a challenge, but not impossible. The trick is to irrigate the root zone, and only saturate the top few inches of soil. That’s because water absorption happens at this level, even if there are roots that extend deeper into the soil. In addition, the faster water gets across your field the better. Some good tips on how to preserve water could be leveling your fields, packing the surface soil before pre-irrigation, and removing weeds quickly when spotted.
We also talked about water stress and how the symptoms don’t appear until it might be too late. Once the corn starts to wilt, it means that the plant is under severe stress. But stress can begin at the seedling stage if roots don’t grow as fast as they should. Growth that is too slow could impede the seedlings ability to keep up with the moisture. In that event, affected plants will close their stomates and growth will slow or stop completely. Stress during seedling stages is to blame for uneven heights in stands. Fast growth is key for two main reasons: plants grow strong root systems and they grow tall enough to avoid soil insect damage and seed pathogens.
Corn Stress in a Dry Year
For the most part, moisture stress affects corn more than other types of crops. For that reason, it’s better to grow less corn and make sure it is well irrigated if you’re faced with a dry year. However, there are times when stress is unavoidable. In that case, it is always better to have periods of slight stress many times during the season rather than a large amount of stress all at once. As a rule of thumb, try to make sure that moisture levels are good during the beginning stages of corn. This will help the crops create a good canopy and help prevent too much reduction of the final yield.
Water Conservation Tips
There are many ways to conserve water if you’re dealing with a dry year when water is short. The best way to conserve water is by restraining water loss below the root zone. When you pre-irrigate make sure you don’t saturate soil below 3 feet. Additionally, keep an eye out for leaks on valves and pipes and fix them promptly. Water on the roads is a huge waste and can create tension between neighbors. Be mindful of gophers. Also, try planting different crops that don’t require as much irrigation.
Taking the necessary precautions in a dry year can help ensure you end up with a good crop yield.