Water Vapor Has Big Impact

Until recently, it was generally believed by scientists that seeds must come in direct contact with the soil in order to obtain needed amounts of water for effective germination. But a recent discovery by a Pacific Northwest Agricultural Research Service soil scientist indicates that’s not necessarily true.

These latest research developments may have a tremendous impact on no-tilled crops and the future development of the no-till planters, drills and air seeders that you use. Since your no-till soils contain considerably more water and water vapor than is found in fields with more intensive tillage systems, this represents a significant breakthrough for your farm.

In fact, water may account for only 15 percent of the water taken up by germinating seeds, with the remainder coming from water vapor. And if less emphasis is called for on the need for effective seed-to-soil contact with no-till, it could open up many new opportunities for you in seeding even more effectively through heavy no-till crop residue.

Water Vapor Is Critical

Based on research with wheat seeds at the Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center in Pendleton, Ore., as well as from studying previously published data, Stewart Wuest has concluded that water vapor in the soil is what is actually needed to make your seeds germinate. With a relative humidity of close to 99 percent for soil, the seeds didn’t need to be tightly compacted in the soil to grow.

In fact, Wuest determined that wheat seeds that were separated from the soil by no-till crop…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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