Water Key Input in Corn Production, but Too Much …..

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We have known for decades that lack of water just prior to the appearance of the silks and tassels through to early kernel development of corn can cause significant yield reductions. However, farmers have suspected that wet areas of fields have been hurting their bottom-line based on monitors mounted on their combines that record yield as they’re harvesting. Recently, research by Dr. Chad Poole, Water Resiliency Extension Specialist, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, NC State University has documented that too much water can be detrimental to corn.

This study was conducted  at a one-of-a-kind field research site at the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth that was able to control the soil moisture levels with drain tile as well as supply water via irrigation. The study evaluated the performance of corn hybrids with three water management systems (intensive drainage,  economical drainage, and poor drainage). There was a wealth of data generated with this study, but I will focus on the impact of drainage on corn yield. Although it was one year’s data, Dr. Poole found the intensive drainage system compared to the poor drainage system resulted in the poor drainage yielding 72 bushels per acre less. When comparing the economical drainage to poor drainage, poor drainage was 52 bushels per acre less than the economical drainage system. Those reductions in yield by soils being too wet is huge.

This study provides figures, both bushels and dollars, to show the effects of too much water on corn. In eastern North Carolina, especially the tidewater regions that has elevations close to sea level resulting in shallow water tables, it is a constant struggle for farmers to keep their fields drained such that the soils are not too wet.

With the results of this study, I can hear farmers minds spinning, but also the sound of screeching brakes because of the fact that there is a big price tag with drainage of farm land. Without getting into the details, the whole process of managing drainage requires some forethought and planning as well as money. Improving drainage will require looking at each farm and/or field and deciding what you need to do. Improving drainage could involve land-shaping, ditching or rearranging ditches, and/or underground tiles with possibly some type of water control devices. With proper planning, a drainage design could possibly be implemented in phases. If you would like to get more details on the topic of water management for crops , contact Dr. Chad Poole via email at capoole2@ncsu.edu.

Use the following link to view a recording of the program that Dr. Poole conducted for northeastern NC farmers about various aspects of water management including research referred to in this article:  https://go.ncsu.edu/toomuchwateroncorn

This image is of theTotal Ag Water Management Research and Extension Site that is field research site that has the ability to monitor and control soil moisture levels via drainage tile and irrigation.

Total Ag Water Management Research and Extension Site is field research site that has the ability to monitor and control soil moisture levels via drainage tile and irrigation.