Withstanding a Lack of Moisture Requires Deep Roots
July 31, 2012
It has been quite a year so far! At the beginning of 2012 there was promise of a huge corn crop, with American farmers planting over 96 million acres and expecting to yield over 15 billion bushels of corn. A mild spring and favorable weather conditions allowed crops to be planted early and gave us a great head start on what was expected to be record-setting harvests.
Then conditions changed. It stopped raining and got extremely hot as we were inundated with 90-degree day after 90-degree day. Under these extreme conditions, much of the Midwest corn crop was suffering severely by July 4th. Just three weeks later most of our country’s corn crop had taken a major yield hit due to lack of moisture and excessive heat.
Yet, even with less than an inch of rain falling in certain areas of the Midwest recently, I have been impressed and encouraged by the condition of some fields. The corn has held up remarkably well in spots. Why? After monitoring the situation and asking some questions, I think there’s no doubt that proper subsurface drainage has had something to do with it.
A well-tiled field promotes deeper root systems early in the year because it prevents excess moisture from building up around plants. When water is not sitting in the topsoil, roots will continue growing down to reach the water table below. Later on, when the hot dry days of summer come along, crops in a well-tiled field can withstand the lack of moisture longer because they have a healthier, more extensive root system.
It’s important to note that while the last three weeks have been hot, dry, and windy, many of the pattern-tiled fields still look very good given the conditions. To me, that is important proof that managing the water table on your fields will help you in all weather conditions.