What will dealing with a Wet Season mean for your crops?

Rows of early season corn plants in wet soil
In many parts of the country, a wet fall and snowy winter were the norm. And while farmers always want plenty of moisture in their soil profile for optimal crop growth, excessive amounts could cause challenges for crops. Knowing the answers to these questions can help you understand how wet conditions have an impact on crops and can help you prepare for and mitigate the effects of saturated soils.

1. How is plant nutrition affected when crops receive too much moisture?
There are multiple ways plant nutrition can be affected by saturated soils. First, microbial activity in the soil is limited under flooded conditions, resulting in slower release of nutrients to plants. At the same time, flooded soils can lose nitrogen, either through denitrification or leaching. Finally, saturated soils may become temporarily oxygen deprived, causing problems for root growth and development. One of the direct consequences of poor root health due to anaerobic soil conditions is that the plants won’t take up nutrients as effectively as they would in more aerated, less saturated soils.

2. Are there things you can do to prepare for a wet season?
We can’t predict with absolute certainty what kind of season we’ll have. But for farmers who live in areas where flooding or heavy spring rains are expected, seed and seed treatment selection become very important. There are certain corn hybrids that are more tolerant to saturated soils than other hybrids. Disease pressure also tends to increase under wet conditions. For example, phytophthora can become a greater concern for soybeans in high-moisture environments, but it can be managed with the appropriate seed treatment and variety selections. One longer-term strategy farmers can take to mitigate the effects of saturated soils is to consider installing drainage tile on poorly drained acres.

3. Are there any in-season adjustments you can make to salvage crops in flooded fields?
While there isn’t much you can do to remove excess moisture from fields, tissue testing can help you understand how well nutrients are getting to plants after flooding occurs. When the field dries out, you might still have time to make a side-dress application to replace nutrients that were lost due to the flooding.

If current conditions are indication, it’s going to be a wet start to the season in many areas. That’s why it’s important to understand the implications of excess moisture and have a plan to deal with in-season weather challenges.