As growers look to the next season and plan their spring planting, they will be watching for the first signals of how their crops will succeed throughout the spring and summer and into harvest.
Crop emergence is the first predictor of crop success. The number of seeds that germinate and grow has a direct correlation to the total yield and quality. Therefore, it is important to take steps not only during the pre-emergence, but also in the previous growing and harvest periods, that will benefit the plants throughout the growing season.
Preparing your soil begins during the previous season. The use of practices that promote the improvement and biological balance in the soil, such as cover crops, crop rotation and natural fertilizers, improves the soil. Optimal soil quality will help plants reach their full genetic potential and better face environmental stressors.
The amount of crop residue can also affect emergence since it can keep the temperature of the soil significantly lower. Growers should take the time to break down the material, which will also provide additional nutrients to the soil.
After improving soil health, it is time to properly prepare the field itself for planting. A soil test is recommended to check what nutrients — both macro and micro — may be low.
During the pre-emergence period, it is also time to begin scouting the fields for early signs of weeds. Growers should not only look for weeds that are beginning to break through, but also dig for weed seeds as well. Field borders can be a good place to check for signs of potential weed problems.
To make sure the crop emerges properly and in a timely fashion, the right variety of seed should be used. The chosen variety should work well for the soil type, the growing environment and the grower’s end market goals. For example, if the area is prone to stressors like temperature fluctuations, a seed that is rated for emergence stressors should be used.
Timing is integral to ensure that the crop emerges correctly. Planting too early or too late can be detrimental to the overall yield and crop quality. Some crops, such as soybeans, perform better if they are planted a bit early.
Keeping an eye on soil temperature will ensure a better emergence of your plants. Cold temperatures will stress the seeds and decrease the number of plants that will reach maturity. Growers should monitor the temperature at planting depth, and if it is a cold and wet period, planting should be stopped, if possible, until more favorable conditions are present.
The attention in preparing the soil and field, finding the right seeds and ensuring correct timing and weather conditions will help growers get a leg up in ensuring that their seeds emerge into viable plants. To learn about more ways to improve soil and provide a strong start for your crops, contact Cropscience@alltech.com.