How to handle wet soils now for greater yield potential later

Farm Forum

Drought has been the main topic of choice this off-season. However, with the record snow and rainfall accumulation, drought is no longer the coffee shop talk – it’s planting in wet soils.

Veteran agronomist and plant specialist Jerry Stoller, MS, is one the world’s leading consultants on plants and their environment. He’s also the brain trust behind World Record soybean yield holder Kip Culler’s 160.6 bu./acre. He understands the plant’s need for energy, how to get deeper roots to take advantage of more nutrients and water and he says a good crop – even in wet soils – begins with a good seed treatment or good early plant development management. He also believes if you don’t pay attention early to the plant’s environmental and energy needs, you’re taking a huge gamble and potential yield loss before you even plant.

“When the soils become flooded, oxygen becomes unavailable to plant roots,” says Stoller. “The root cells starve for oxygen and will eventually become depleted of energy. The roots will then die. This is a process that takes several days.”

According to Agronomist, if the plant is “trained” to produce a long vertical root, it will efficiently store carbohydrate for further use (especially useful in drought-susceptible areas). This can be accomplished by using a good seed treatment prior to planting.

“How a proper seed treatment works,” outlines Stoller, “is when flooding occurs, carbohydrates will be reduced to shorter chain carbons and oxygen is released to plant cells in the roots. The roots will not die even though the soil will remain flooded for three-to-four days. The seed treatment is the surest way to overcome this potential problem. In addition, a seed treatment will introduce the plant vigor (epigenetics) of the plant and enable the plant to set itself up for higher yields if soil flooding does not occur.”

Proven Solutions

Stoller says not all seed treatments are equal and that your agronomist or seed specialist should be included in the decision prior to planting to assure the proper seed treatment is indeed included. Stoller has been developing seed treatment for more than 50 years. His experience (and recommendation) is a product called Seed Power that he uses at only 3 oz./cwt. Stoller says Seed Power is a liquid formulation containing chelated cobalt plus unidentified growth factors designed to increase the plant’s power to “express genetic potential.” He says it applied to the seed pre-planting and the treatment will promote critical carbohydrates to accumulate in the roots.

Stoller also recognizes some systems won’t allow a seed treatment. Here he says using an in-furrow application of Seed Power at 6 oz./A along with 7 gallons of water to thoroughly surround the seed. He says data show increased germination, more seedling growth and longer vertical roots when Seed Power is utilized in this manner. This practice could be done at the time of planting and will further increase the epigenetics of the plant and give greater yield – even if flooding does not occur.

Another practice Stoller says will pay huge yield dividends (and help plants grow quickly in wet soils) is an 8 oz./A foliar treatment of Force – a liquid product that contains nitrogen and potassium plus in combination with 8 oz./A of More Power, designed to provide a much greater root system. This should be applied directly to the foliage of the young plants in flooded soil. It will probably take an aerial applicator or drone of some type to make this application. The fields will probably be too wet for immediate entry.

“If the problem is serious enough,” concluded Stoller, “a field applicator with appropriate tires could go through the fields as soon as it’s dry enough to hold up the machine. This application should be made within 4 days after flooding occurs,” Stoller insists.