Ag researchers monitor dry conditions from the field

Drought conditions are not picky when they hit. Researchers at BRANDT say despite a lack of rain, their crops are still growing.

dry crops

Much of farm country has seen dry conditions in the last couple of weeks, including central Illinois where BRANDT has a research farm. The facility there does research into progressive corn and soybean management practices.

Eric Winans is the research farm manager and technical agronomist. He says planting season had a lot of moisture, but the crops are still growing despite a lack of rainfall recently.

“We had timely planting, and we had the bulk of our corn and beans in the ground between the second and third week of April. And then had plenty of moisture there after planting. But now the tables kind of turned here where starting about that second week of May till now, we’ve only had a couple of tenths of rain, so we’ve turned pretty dry here. Despite that, our corn is still growing fairly rapidly. It’s progressing rapidly,” Winans said.

He says the key was getting the nodal root system out so the plants could anchor down deep and retain moisture. He notes soybean plant growth has slowed recently but he places that on early planting. While dry weather can lower disease pressure, he says that can all change very quickly.

“If we get good rainfall here over the next two weeks and the temperature stays warm and we get these humid conditions, disease can actually set in pretty rapidly. We know with fungicides we want to take a preventative approach. It’s really hard to fix an issue that’s already there. But even in a dry year, we still see good fungicide responses because of the plant health effect that they can have. Those fungicides can actually slow respiration, which helps that plant hang on to its water potential during some of these hot dry spells. And then, even without disease pressure, those fungicides can extend that plant’s photosynthetic capacity later in the grain fill, which means we’re manufacturing carbohydrates that are being moved to that grain during the grain-fill period,” Winans said.

Right now a stubborn weather pattern is parked across the Midwest stretching from Mexico to Canada. It is called an Omega Block, shaped like a big horseshoe. USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey says it is a massive area of high pressure that will send temperatures soaring into the 90s and stop all moisture, even in the Northern Plains. It’s expected to hang around into July and experts say there is not much producers can do except hope it breaks down early and the crops survive.

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