Increasingly, extreme weather seems to play a role in the way farmers approach their growing season. As of late, a growing portion of the United States has dealt with drought conditions, while another part of the country has endured flooding.
And the toughest may be yet to come. The National Hurricane Center recently predicted a hurricane and tropical storm season with a setup similar to the one we saw last year, which they call “above normal.” In fact, a 60-percent chance of an above normal season and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. NOAA is predicting 13-20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 will become hurricanes, including 3 to 5 major hurricanes. This is on the heels of a record 30 named storms, including 12 that hit the United States in 2020.
Then there’s the drought. USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey said that nearly three-fourths of the western U.S. is facing drought conditions that are worse than they have been at any other time in the 20-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
As these weather events unfold, our agronomists are regularly asked for solutions to help mitigate environmental stress. Agronomist Bert Riggan discussed some of the current challenges facing growers, and offered up some solutions.
Farmers in a sizable swath of the country, especially in the South and Southeast, have battled saturated soil, cloudy skies, and at times, cool temperatures.
This can prove challenging, especially at a crucial stage in the growing season. “Getting extra energy into the plant that can’t be made through photosynthesis or immobile in the soil due to oversaturation is critical,” Riggan said. He suggests various Concept AgriTek products to mitigate environmental stressors.
“Younger plants really respond to Foliar Rx and Sweet Success with NutriTek. TransMaxx 20/20 is also very good in cool wet conditions to avoid phosphorous deficiency. Same goes for Zinc, Trans Zn will overcome immobile Zn in saturated soils,” Riggan said. “Total 10 is very useful in providing foliar nitrogen during periods where soil applied nitrogen may be limited. It is never advisable to make applications while the crop is in standing water, unless it is a rice crop.”
Managing the drought
While some farmers can’t seem to catch a break from the rain and overcast skies, others across the country would welcome even a fraction of the precipitation they have experienced.
Drought conditions and extreme heat bring their own set of challenges for growers, and Riggan said Concept AgriTek has solutions to help crops subjected to intense summer sun with very little exposure to precipitation.
“During hot or drought conditions, our primary concern is keeping the plant cool and ensuring movement of potassium and other nutrients that may be limited due to very low soil moisture,” Riggan said. “Stress-Tek technology is key in this situation. Sweet Success can be added to the mix to give the plant a carbon and energy boost as well.”
He adds that care should be taken when adding the correct Concept AgriTek products under drought stress conditions.
Be patient; ask an agronomist
Both heat stress and saturation stress can induce disease, but, especially in the case of wet fields, applying product while the fields are still wet, could be a waste of valuable time and money.
“A lot of these guys still have crops that are standing in water, and some people are telling them they can go and make this application or that application, but, from our experience, if the crop is in standing water, you’re not going to be successful,” Riggan said. “You have to wait until the water gets off the crop.”
And charging ahead with applications, or even with replanting if the crop is a loss, can be costly if a decision is hastily made.
“You can waste an awful lot of money getting impatient,” Riggan said, adding that with some models showing continued rain and even tropical storm makers in areas already hit hard with flooding, a rush to apply chemicals or replant could add insult to injury.
“You want to feel confident that you’re not going to wind up in another flood situation,” Riggan said. “So watching the weather is critical in making these decisions.”
Rather than going it alone, Riggan suggests that farmers consult a qualified agronomist, who can take a big-picture look at the situation and outline many factors that will help farmers make more informed decisions.
To hear Bert Riggan talk more about mitigating environmental stress, listen to Inside Farm Life here. His segment begins at the 23:36 mark.