Fall Scouting With The Drought In Mind

Combining data, yield maps and in-field observation can help no-tillers understand field variability and make better management decisions.

Even though we’ve had a tough year with drought conditions, it’s a good time to evaluate your fields — and the yield information you have — to make the right management decisions for next year.

There are several things to consider, even after harvest ends. Combining information in your yield maps with post-harvest scouting will help you understand where management or equipment changes may be needed.

When scouting, try to determine which field areas have opportunities to improve and which field areas don’t. If you have a yield monitor, start by printing yield maps for each field.

The maps could identify areas that need scouting for a couple of reasons: 1) To see why yields were particularly high or low or, and; 2) Why yields may have been quite variable in selected field areas.

Moisture-Holding Capacity

This is certainly the year to look at yield maps and compare them to soil maps to make sure soil-moisture-holding-capacity zones are defined.

Soil types and/or soil-topsoil depths, and many other subsoil characteristics, may explain why some field areas are more drought stricken than others.

This irregularity may be easy to define, or it may be caused by an underlying management issue like compaction. Understanding your field’s ability to supply water to crops in different field areas is important for predicting how you might want to variably rate seed in the future.

Try to define whether these differences in yield are all due to soil variation, or if it’s issues like poor stands, compaction…

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Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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