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Soil WHC from Seed to Yield – Part 3

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Soil WHC from Seed to Yield – Part 3

Many growers are faced with difficult decisions this time of year (and especially this year!) on whether to plant seed in less than ideal soil temps, even though soil conditions are adequate. Add uncertain weather forecasts in the mix with cold, rainy conditions and the level of difficulty rises. But we have to get the seed planted early! Or do we? Looking back to Part 1 of this blog, although delayed, uneven and poor emergence is often experienced when planting early in cold and wet conditions, growers will often say later “the plants still came out of the ground so nothing lost”. As growers, do we want to think like this to make ourselves feel better for the decisions we made to plant in less than ideal conditions, OR, do we really not know the extent of damage we caused to our end results financially. Financially” is the key as this seems to bring everyone back to perspective.

We can make this same comparison with plant growth variability experienced in-season, like the examples we discussed in Part 2. Now let’s look deeper at what this variability equates to in final yield and profitability. Is this variability in WHC something worth accounting for??

Using the same field example in this blog series, we will analyze the real yield results in this field. The image below provides a side by side visual comparison of the EC soil type zones with the resulting corn yield map. There is obvious yield variation, but at what point does the variability create a need for altering or improving our current management practices. To answer this, we want to understand the “extent of variability”, or how much yield difference there is from zone to zone.

EC - yield map - WHC blog part 3

CropMetrics Precision Data Specialists (PDS) are able to take each field’s yield data and analyze the yield by management zone. The results below provide a real life example of how much the extent of variability is caused by WHC. As a reminder from the previous blogs, the red EC zone is the lightest soil type of the field, and the blue zone is the heaviest soil type. In this field we experienced an average yield of 235 bushels in the red zone, 221 bushels in the green, and 191 bushels in the heaviest soil type, blue zone. An extent of variability of 44 bushels! More importantly are the profitability by zone values at the top of each bar. By calculating profit in dollars we have an extent of variability of $174.35/ac! Wow!! Even worse, our blue zone is a negative $55/ac, which = PROFIT LOSS.

yield by zone - WHC blog part 3

Results like this can easily validate an investment in technology like VRI or Soil Moisture Probes to improve management of the WHC variability. More often than expected, field’s experience similar results with grower’s not fully knowing the “extent of variability”. If you see variability in your field, but do not know the extent of that variability, contact a CropMetrics PDS today to evaluate more. In a previous article, we discussed in detail the grower’s cost of CropMetrics precision irrigation solutions in relation to the return on dollar, or Profit per Bushel.

cost per bushel

Precision Irrigation solutions provided by CropMetrics are cost effective, simple to use (fully serviced and supported by a local PDS), and provides “real value” or Return on Input (ROI). Do not assume that variability is a fixed problem you have to live with. Today’s technology improves the management of WHC influence and allows growers to maximize profitability on each acre throughout every field. To take full advantage of the profit opportunities with WHC, we must also understand the Majority Soil Type influence. 

Always remember, optimizing plant growth development is a systems approach throughout the entire season. As we attempted to break down three opportunities within the dynamically changing growing season in this blog series, it’s important to consider all management practices that will influence how we maximize yield production on each acre. CropMetrics precision irrigations solutions are only one component to the overall systems approach, but as we have shown, WHC is a major factor that can be, and should be accounted for. Contact a CropMetrics PDS in your area to learn how to take advantage of the opportunity that WHC creates in your fields today. 

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