Health of the Soil and Root Architecture that Adapts to Aid Soil Tilth

Lots of talk in the Soil Health world lately about all the benefits of generating more living tissue in the upper portion of the soil profile with cover crops, intercropping of companion-type cropping and more.  Within all these conversations, written articles and blogs are we forgetting something?  I do think so.  As a soil scientist who enjoys digging, discovering, observing for some time now I realize soils do have secrets yet to come to light.  How we look at the natural fabric of soils compared to looking at how over the years we have altered soils with tillage, applied heavy forces upon the soils, feeling we have to accomplish a tillage pass or planting or harvesting way before the soil has physically drained?  A good number of us know about compacting soils, especially clayey soils, wet soil conditions and the consequences.  But do we really?

As sure as we know a day is 24 hours in duration, once we as agriculturists manipulate soils wet and often we change dynamics dramatically.  That is not even the half of it folks, roots and root architecture take a back seat in a rough riding Jeep of the WWII vintage, not many like that ride and do not want to go again due to the work holding on or in this case – digging.  Jake Mowrer, Assistant Professor at Texas A&M wrote in a blog not too long ago (first of February) that plants and plant roots have to exert extra energy to modify soil conditions to improve their chances of survival and obtaining nutrients and water.  He said, “The soil is not a very welcoming environment for plant growth.  It does not provide everything a plant needs freely and without reservation,”  he went on, “In fact, left as is, the soil probably would not produce very many plants at all.  Proof of this is found in the tremendous amount of soil modification plants engage in just to improve their chances of survival.”

A lot of what he wrote makes sense.  Draw your attention to soils that are wet like those of locales in Central Iowa, or Northern Ohio near Lake Erie, or the Prairie Pothole region of South Dakota and Western Minnesota where surface drainage and internal drainage are problematic to raising consistent good crops of both crops with fibrous root systems and/or tap rooted crops – soybean and corn.  Old methods of tilling, planting, cultivation since the first pioneers rode oxen or walked wagons west have not gone away.  Growers of foodstuffs and feed crops still till too much or with inversion implements but expecting better results year after year – Albert Einstein made a comment about that which I will let you remember it.  Anyway – Dr. Mowrer says in his blog [https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/how-do-different-root-structures-affect-soil/ ] that plants modify the soil; I rather believe plants and plant roots adapt and develop roots to fit the conditions and exert energy to expand to achieve the normal functions of water attainment and accessing nutrients necessary for photosynthesis and reproduction. Maybe that is semantics but I suggest you read his words for he has good points. Carrying this further to

Fig. 1: Diagram of roots, Courtesy: Nature

my 40 years of looking at roots, I have had all those opportunities to offer folks a view of the their soil profile by encountering over 1700 root pits and enough dirt in my pockets that have nearly clogged my wife’s washing machine once or twice.

From the crops we grow around the world there are two dominant root types of root systems, the taproot and then fibrous root system. Mowrer writes in his February blog post that tap rooted crops represent one specific strategy to access water and nutrients held deeper in the soil profile than the fibrous rooted crop strategy.  Roots of grassy crops emphasize growth of laterals and secondary laterals closer to the surface to extract nutrients and water.  A fibrous rooted grass can acquire even small rain events that fall and survive much quicker than a tap rooted plant.  So as an example of adapting; with some grassy vegetation in wet soils they have developed means to keep from drowning in long periods of saturation, for instance cattails, sedges and rushes.  In the instance of the wetland tree – the species Salix, willow is interesting.  Willow’s preference for water means that many of roots will be growing in waterlogged soils or even directly into water. This poses the problem of how to get oxygen in to the root cells. Many plants respond to water-logging by developing air-spaces within the root cortex (the cortex is the parenchyma tissue between the epidermis and the vascular cylinder) which are continuous with the normal air spaces in the shoots above ground. This allows the aerial shoots to supply the roots with air. This spongy, aerated parenchyma tissue is called aerenchyma.  I know, big 5 syllable words.  These soft tissues for holding oxygen is vital to survival in wet oxygen starved soils for trees and wetland grass-like plants.  For maize, the roots do not like wet feet, in fact I have seen maize roots turn back upward when in wet conditions for a period of time, then they stop growing downward and develop more secondary lateral roots above in the more aerated portion of the soil.  Another type of adaptation that works well.

In the cross section to the right in a recent article in Nature (Fig. 1) you can see both micropores and macropores inhabited by roots of primary and secondary lateral roots. The purple color surrounding the depiction of the roots is where the soils are being changed or modified as Dr. Mowrer explains in his blog.  In all my observations this is “the fitting” of the plants root system and architecture.

The interactions of plant roots and soil structure are two-way, i.e. there is also an effect of plant roots on soil structure. During soil exploration, roots push through the soil and alter physical, chemical and biological properties in their vicinity, the rhizosphere. These alterations may persist after roots are degraded, leaving behind a dense system of connected biopores.  These biopores, now become an  integral part of soil structure, in turn feedback on root growth providing pathways of low mechanical resistivity with wall properties reflecting former root activity and in part activity of soil fauna (Lucas et. al, 2019 In Nature).  In the upper portions of the soil profile that are more aerated the soil biology (both fauna and flora) interact with the roots and rhizosphere to supply nutrients and water, ward off diseases and parasitic invaders and live in harmony with the life root tissues.

I as well as Dr. Mowrer look at the distribution of the root architecture depends upon how the plant interacts with macro and micro channels, voids and aggregates forming from decomposing tissues and root exudates.  All of this affect water movement and retention properties of the soil.  The voids (including recent and old root channels) hold oxygen and other gases that sustain microbial and fungal life.  These voids, old root channels with carbonaceous material take on water and during the winter months (where soils do freeze up) will freeze and the ice crystals will radiate outward expanding the voids modifying the soil even more.  All of this aids in soil tilth** and helps roots and plant growth both annual and perennial crops.

**Soil tilth can be described in some general terms; soil physical, chemical and biological properties that promote plant growth, especially that below the soil surface. A soil with proper tilth will be friable (flexible) normally has well developed aggregates and macroporosity and provides the proliferation of roots.

Here at Orthman we see and advise that proper primary tillage management be timed correctly by moisture content, maintaining crop aftermath as much as possible on the soil surface, not rolling or total inversion of the soil.  We are much about how Strip Tillage works with our 1tRIPr tool to develop a proper seedbed, place nutrients when desired by the grower, and develop a root zone for a strong and healthy crop outcome.

All of what we communicate via this website is to offer up-to-date information to promote smart stewardship of your soil resources, conserve and protect soils from erosion, improve your farming practices and help you make profit at farming row crops.

References:

Lucas, M., Schlüter, S., Vogel, HJ. et al. Roots compact the surrounding soil depending on the structures they encounter. Sci Rep 9, 16236 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-52665-w
Dr. Jake Mowrer’s article is in the hyperlink, highlighted in blue in paragraph 3 above

Even though for North America we are Frozen!

May I bring some recent concepts of soil temperature and early plant development in the row crops we plant that Strip Tillage has direct influence upon to you to consider?  I have addressed some of this subject in the past in a blog.

Is the Weather outside frightful and the fire inside (in the fireplace) delightful?

As we prepare the seedbed and root zone for the 2021 (yes for those of you that accomplished such in the fall of 2020 too) season we know by research done in the first 12-14 years of this century that a Strip Till System approach warms up quicker and deeper into the soil profile than a Direct Seeding (Zero Till, No-Till).  Strip Till has shown improvements to soil warm up against broad acre conventional tillage most likely 1 degree F or so.  The how much does depend upon the latitude you are.  As those who live in Minnesota, Central Wisconsin, North Dakota, parts of Montana – planting times are bereft with cold soils and for many the older ways usually turned the soils black so they would warm and have what was thought as good seed-to-soil contact.  In those climes, Strip Till (in the till zone has measure 3 to 7 deg. F. warmer than under the residue or in a No-Till environment).  In Central Iowa the strip till in 2 year studies measured 1 to 3 degrees warmer compared to under the residue or No-Till.  In studies in far eastern Colorado over a ten year study we saw 2 to 5 degrees warmer tilled zones each year measured at the 4 inch depth.  During that longer study we had cool springs, warm springs and dry springtime conditions.  A two year study only gives you a short term picture.

What other than warmer conditions which we as growers want to plant our corn or soybeans or other crop as soon as possible to reach our yield goals?  When nutrients have been placed with a strip till implement down between 5 and 10 inches below the surface, none of us want that plant to wait long for the nutrients to be available and spur the plant to grow and take on that “hungry teenage personality”.  So much of the nutrient uptake into a corn or bean crop is dependent upon the roots and microbial population being in sync.  Those little one celled critters to the tune of billions per tablespoon are not really active until for the most part when soil temps reach 63 degrees F.  Not until mid-June do we see soil temperatures below 8-12 inches stay at the 63 degree mark on the thermometer night and day.

Environmental concepts within tillage systems, Courtesy Dr. Wick, NDSU

Watt et al. 2006, determined in a Grains Research and Development Corp research project in Australia that maize roots extended 2.6X more when soils were reaching 84 deg. F than 60 deg F.  What does that have to do withy cool soil conditions earlier and strip till?  To reach the soil potential and what the soil environment is optimal for above and below ground — we at Orthman see the big value in starting off right each seed that germinates and goes on it’s life path.

In a North Dakota study, Dr. Abbey Wick (2019) shows that looking at tillage systems at one of their SHARE field sites, we can see temperature numbers that show differences that Strip Till is a package to give considerable thought to, especially as we look to spring time and wanting to have a great environment for that newly plant crop to thrive in.  What I am saying is, we have to consider how we till soils and how we can positively or negatively impact the soils drives the gears from pre-plant all the way to mid-season folks.  We all appreciate Dr. Wicks work in studying systems to optimize the soil conditions for soil protection from erosion, water management, nutrient management and Soil Health.

Annals of Botany. 2006; Vol.97(5): pp839–855.
Rates of Root and Organism Growth, Soil Conditions, and Temporal and Spatial Development of the Rhizosphere
authors: MICHELLE WATT, WENDY K. SILK, and JOHN B. PASSIOURA

Continuation of the factors that can influence Nutrient Uptake – here we address soil structure

When it comes to the health of the soil, the general consensus is all about the upper 10cm or 4inches.  Haney Tests, the usual  20cm (8inch) soil tests from those who offer nutritional analyses of your soil in a grid fashion or shot gun scatter approach which is not very meaningful, all focus on the surface layer of your soils.  Do your roots remain in the upper 4 inches the entire lifespan of your crop? Well you hope not because the plant would fall over and yield something ugly. For example, roots of a corn plant will reach 48 inches (122cm) quite regularly.  That is over 10 times deeper than 4 inches and there are a good deal of items the soil profile has for you in those next 44 inches.  So I would like to provide you some extra clues on the Soil Structure concept of the latest three blogs I have posted.

FIG. 1:  Image of different soil types, examples from New Zealand. Courtesy NZ Soils

  Soil structure has been just a little of the conversation when it comes to health and soil quality of soils, in fact woefully not thought of in the Soil Health topic and that is a shame.  Structure of soils adds so much to complete the topic of Soil Health.  The conversation circles around soil organic matter and biology – tool little is brought to the forefront with soil structure.  Soils that have a structureless form have all kinds of negative connotations for water movement, root development, gas exchange, soil erosivity, and the biggie – soil compaction.

In the image to your left, the upper right side depicts massive or structureless form.  Soil porosity is usually horrible to non existent. When soil horizons below the soil surface exhibit massive conditions we have to assume soils have been abused, crushed, beaten, sliced, mashed and overall in tough shape.  Some soils that were under glacial ice for so long at a great thickness we can find this kind of form. A tough and serious issue.  There are remedies but all of them take a good deal of time to help.

Soil Structure refers to the arrangement of soil separates into units called soil aggregates. An aggregate possesses solids and pore space. Aggregates are separated by planes of weakness and are dominated by clay particles. Silt and fine sand particles may also be part of an aggregate. The aggregate acts like a larger silt or sand particle depending upon its size.

The arrangement of soil aggregates into different forms gives a soil its structure. The natural processes that aid in forming aggregates are:

1) wetting and drying,

2) freezing and thawing,

3) microbial activity that aids in the decay of organic matter,

4) activity of roots and soil animals, and

5) adsorbed cations.

As aggregates congregate together they take shape into Apedal to Crumb to Blocky and so on.  Soils that have structural types below the surface layer that are blocky or prismatic or columnar are extremely strong and supportive to loading from above.  The more vertical axis of the soil structural type the better water movement and root development deep into the soil profile.  The soils that depict prismatic structure that can part down into blocky structure are fairly mature in age and have been subject to all the 5 items mentioned above.  Gravity is a main factor in all structural unit formation.  Along the vertical faces roots will adhere to the walls, soil organic matter will adhere deep into the subsoil horizons and provide carbon products and also nutrients which the roots and lateral root hairs will access.

When you read a soil profile description of a Marna silty clay loam in Iowa, or a Miami silt loam in Ohio, or a Holdrege silt loam in Nebraska as a few to name off – one will see the horizon designations as Ap, Bw1, Bw2, Bt and so on then words like ‘weak moderate subangular blocky structure’ follow behind that which informs the reader what the soil structure is in a Bw horizon.  Soil scientists that mapped and classified soils for the United States Soil Survey program of the USDA-SCS/NRCS do this in the field all the time.  I know, I mapped soils in three states in my first career with the USDA.

Soil structure of a decently managed conservation tillage program, sound residue covers left on the surface for as much of the entire year as possible and within the cropping portion of the year will provide for good soil structure.  Start moldboard plowing, deep subsoiling (>38cm) 15 inches and deeper and structure takes a beating and takes quite some time to reform, usually in terms of tens to hundreds of years.  Soils in humid, warm all year along have very mature structure types like in Central America.

FIG. 2. Definitions of soil structural types

What does this have to do with me and my soils on my farm or parents place?

A great deal I say.  Having some idea of the horizons in your fields per soil mapping unit in field 11 or field 3 and this can provide you knowledge how they respond differently is partly due to the soil structural types and how well water is absorbed then released to the plants we grow.  I have already written about soil pores and porosity in a previous blog which you can revert to.  The more moderate to strong soil structural units the better movement of water and gases in and out of the soil profile.  When soils are platy which you may have noticed in Figure 2 near the bottom, roots, water movement is all tortuous and slowed dramatically.  Usually in overly tilled soils, it is there due to tillage tools scraping, sliding, smearing on a plane creating layers like separate pages stacked on top of one another.  I am sure many of you know this already, I applaud you for understanding these features of the soil profile.  To further breakdown the idea of soil structure: when the horizons are indicated that it is weak in definition the trend is either the soil is quite young in age or the structure type of subangular blocky is being degraded by abiotic conditions usually.  What does that mean – man is messing with wrong kinds and timing of over-tillage practices.  As I mentioned earlier, when soils are described as massive or structureless – we soils guys or gals have observed degradation at its finest or it is a very immature soil profile.  Do not assume soils with these types of structureless conditions are young and may get better with time.

The soil survey of the county or parrish you live in has all this information as you turn from page to page.  If you have the opportunity to gain access to a day with a soil scientist to explain what you have is good stuff for you to improve upon your soil management techniques, understand the Soil Health or Soil Quality issues and provide you a service soils people love to talk about.

How is Soil Water Important to Developing Plants and Fertility?

Couple three weeks ago I laid out some items that may provide clarification to a developing root system, first I shared about the fertility placement and then wrote to you how soil porosity (abundance, size and continuity) is so important.  Soils that are massive or compacted will inhibit root development and depth of penetration for so may crops, perennials can adapt and push through over the years.  For an annual plant such as corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, canola – oh we have problems.

So let us consider the water content of soils, where the water is in a soil profile, if there may be a dry sandwich layer (more moisture above a dry zone and wetter below), how much suction power (or not) does a plant exert to draw moisture into the roots, that ‘zone’ around the physical root diameter for water uptake, how far can a root dehydrate or drink water from the root itself, how much that is and briefly what mycorrhizae hyphae does in aiding water uptake.  All of the above are factors along with climatic conditions; humidity of the atmosphere, heat of the day, wind and then crop stage.

Fig. 1:  On the left is very young plant at V4, the right is a plant at VT

 As a plant ages the amount of biomass that is alive has a certain demand for water; for instance, a V4 corn plant is only 13 grams but a fully mature plant with a developing ear may be 2450 grams – 190X more grams and surely a bigger demand to keep hydrated and functioning.
Images to your left represent what we might be looking at….

Facts of water holding capacity:

When the soil matrix is near field capacity for a medium textured soil (silt loam or loam) it can hold nearly 0.34-0.40 inch/cubic inch – what is available tho is 0.21 to 0.22 inch per cubic inch.  So in a root zone of the V4 plant the root zone is fairly small, potentially in 144 cubic inches of root zone it could have 16 oz of water available to the root system.  When a plant has reached maximum height, maximum root volume in the soil (VT-R1) we are seeing 5000 to 6500 cu. inches of soil volume that can hold water and make it available to the roots.  If soil profile is at field capacity when plant is mature we are looking at 21.6 to 28.2 gallons of water available.  Compare that to 1 cubic yard then we would have a field capacity 202 gallons available in a silt loam soil profile.  Great potential, however those numbers at that stage of growth in a corn field are extremely rare.

Facts of Dryness:

Consider how a soil will be refilled by rain events or irrigation in a medium textured soil (bear with me), the profile has to over fill the upper horizons first to help push water downward through cracks, crevices and pores as well as gravity pulling it.  A soil that may be very dry, down to near the hygroscopic range, the soil fills somewhat slow then seems to catch up and water moves into the soil profile.  There are times when the soil is so dry a condition called “hydrophobicity” sets up and water will be shed and runoff (not infiltrate).  This happens during long drought spells and when a fire has swept across the surface at temperatures up above 500 degrees F.  Waxes, lipids, fats and resins in the soil organic matter are the usual culprits that cause such an effect.  A 25mm or 1 inch rain when the soil surface is real dry will rarely fill the upper portion of the soil profile evenly.  In a strip till environment we find that a 25mm or 1 inch rain may penetrate 30-35cm (12-14 inches) in the strip tilled area but only 10 to 15cm (4-6 inches) between the strips when it is very dry.  Part of the reasoning, we have observed over the last 20 years in strip tilled fields the  residue between the strips may shed water towards the strip zone, and the porosity and shallow roots under the residue absorb water very quickly.  So I am telling you this to say the soil profile will have dry spots, shallow depth in parts and in strips deeper penetration – this gives the plants an advantage in strip till.  The existing pores under the residue where the soil surface has not been disturbed in most cases will have contiguous pores under where last years crop stood and aid in water penetration unless as I said it is super dry like the 2020 late summer into fall and winter.

Fig. 2:  Courtesy Gary Naylor – Intense rain on soils that puddled bad then soils flow and erosion is severe.

Compacted Soils – And Potential Soil Erosion

I have observed and also measured water movement when soils have a compacted layer within the upper 6 inches (15cm).  Ugly effects.  What happens?  Because of what we call an “abrupt discontinuity” at the top of the compacted layer there is a smear zone.  Pores, cracks, crevices, even some of the vertical ped faces can be cut off or truncated, as with a rapid rain events or large doses of irrigation (flood) the soil above the compacted layer has to fill to 130% of field capacity before gravitational water starts to pull water in and down.  What does all that have to do with soil water?  A bunch, when water is not able to penetrate the soil profile and refill pores so a growing plant can survive – we have problems; the results may well be runoff carrying away soil for a period of time unless the rain slows to a infiltration rate below the normal soil textural rate (ie: loam soils have a standard infiltration rate of  0.6 to 1.0 inch/hour, silty clay loam soils standard rate is 0.2 to 0.6inch/hour).  When soils become that saturated and the rain continues to pelt down at a high rate (>1.5-2 inches per hour), the soil above the compaction usually turns into a gel like substance and then flow – water erosion becomes horrendous.  Image to your left is a perfect example – losses may exceed 50 to 160 tons/acre.

The amount of water that we hoped to penetrate and go into the soil and replenish what the plants have absorbed or evaporated will be way short of what could and should have refilled the soil.  Now please do not think that moldboard plowing is the answer.   Strip tillage shanks or coulter units follow the normal vertical structural units of the soil and disturb the soil without inverting, smearing, rolling and smashing soil structural units.  All of those disturbances damage soil structure which can and will alter soils to become massive, reducing porosity and that results in  less water content for root access.

Water is the essence of plant life.  Without water and at the right times plant desiccate, wither and die.  Water obtained and drawn into the plants by the root system move sugars, proteins, carbohydrates and basic nutrients into the xylem and phloem tubes to continue the cycle of photosynthesis.  It is said and studied by plant scientists that 98%+ of the water in and used by plants come from the soil profile.  I can hear several of you say – That is an understatement or in one word, DUH!  My writing such is to note we are farmers of water and the soil profile is the bank account we manage with certain tillage practices.  This discussion is to emphasize with what we promote with Strip Tillage we are helping you with water infiltration, where it gets banked, making a root system as big as necessary to grow a crop whether it is forage, grains, fruits, tubers, bulbs or nuts.

Effective zone around the root and root hairs can obtain water:

Fig. 3:   Diagrams of zone where root of 1mm size pulls water.  The red line indicates the distance water can be sucked into the plant (1cm to 2.5cm) on the left.

Roots have to compete against the tension water is held by organic matter and clay particles in the soil to pull water into the epidermis and then Xylem transports it up to the above ground portions of the plant for cooling, hydration and photosynthesis processes.  The suction can be measured in atmospheres, pounds of force, or dynes.

In the diagram to the left there is a cross section of a root and then a red line around it giving you an idea of how far the root can pull or suck water when the soil pores are full of water, the tension soils hold water at that phase is 1/3rd of an atmosphere.  That is easily obtainable water and the plant exerts little effort.  For ease of reference to remember, that is 1 to 2.3 cm or approximately 1/4 to near 1 inch around the root.  Finer root size can squeeze into smaller pores, the larger roots when growing fast and down deep do not send as many roots radially outward and may grow past drier zones for cooler and more moist environments.

FIG. 4:   Depiction of an Orthman root dig with very fast vertical root development (red circled area) shows where very, very few lateral roots developed

With this drawing [Figure 4] of a root dig we at Orthman completed in 2012 with fast growing conditions of the hot summer, roots show little to no lateral root expression within the 18-32 inch depth. At the time of this root dig it was late August, the plants were mature and had finished pollinating.  We returned near to the same site after harvest, dug new holes and discovered the zone 18-32 inches still had moisture and the rest of the soil profile was bone dry.

My intention is to illustrate that both lateral roots and root hairs can make a significant difference in water uptake.  Then with the later soil-root dig we observed the remaining mosit soils.

 

Lastly, Mycorrhizae hyphae contribute to water uptake:

The ever emerging and broader knowledge of mycorrhiza is fascinating and a study in itself with how and what they contribute to crop production.  I have written about this fungi before and will just briefly identify in this article what they contribute to plants in water uptake.

The hyphae are small filaments microns in size that grow out from the hosts root into the soils in the upper 4 to 12 inch depth of the soil profile.  Aerobic in nature they do not live too much deeper into the soil.  These hyphae can extend outward from the host plant up to 10cm (4in).  As they do they can absorb water and nutrients to feed its host to continue growing more hyphae.  Brassicas – plants of the mustard family do not have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhiza.  Nearly all other terrestrial plants do.

A very interesting feature of these symbionts that they aid the plant handle droughty conditions.  Even cactii have a solid relationship with mycorrhizal fungi and thrive due to their interaction.  Offering  another quick fact about mycorrhizal hyphae –  Glomalin is a glycoprotein produced abundantly on hyphae and spores of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in soil and in roots. Glomalin was discovered in 1996 by Sara F. Wright, a scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service.  I had the honor of meeting Dr. Wright when she came to the Great Plains USDA-ARS Experiment Station near Akron, Colorado and she taught a field course about her discovery, identifying the microscopic filaments, the importance of glomalin as a “soil glue” and soil aggregate stability.  Since that date the science of soil fungi has exploded and brought so much more to the science of soils.

FIG. 5:   Computer image of a soybean root (in yellow) and the hyphae near the surface are very fine in size.

As I said water is absolutely essential and provides life or without soil waster most plant life does not exists.  Offering you a small window into the realm of soil science that incorporates physics, biology, chemistry, and specific root relationships that are of recent findings.

Stay tuned as we explore more.

Soil Biopores from Previous Crop – Influences 2021 Crop

Fig 1. Example of compacted root system of canola visualized by X-ray tomography Courtesy Univ. of Adelaide, Australia, 2004  Lateral root expression at 12 to 15cm depth due to compaction. Root volume is then 80% of the root mass is in the upper 20cm (8in).

As I wrote last week that I would update you the reader of the PrecisionTillage blog on more facets of rooting, tillage, nutrient uptake and also water uptake.   As I peel a softball sized onion of how soils are so important to every nuance of crop growth, I find more research I need to read, digest and cover to provide you important clues on how to raise a profitable yield. Over the course of a few days working here at my office I have read some interesting material.

Han, Kautz & Köpke (2015) observed in a study of crops following chicory (a taprooted plant) and a planting of tall fescue which produce quite different root systems. In their research growing barley after the taprooted crop vs fibrous fescue, the roots sampled after the tap rooted chicory resulted in a higher Root Length Density (RLD) of two upper root diameter classes (medium and coarse roots; 0.38 cm cm−3) in comparison to tall fescue (0.23 cm cm−3).  Roots come in four root diameter classes, very fine (<0.1 mm), fine (0.1–0.2 mm), medium (0.2–0.5 mm), and coarse roots (>0.5 mm).  Their data suggest the root architecture of precrops resulted first in different patterns of soil biopores, second in a different morphology of the root system of the subsequent crop and third in amount of soil explored by subsequent crop root systems.  Their work detailed that roots of the fine and medium diameter size increased the RLD overall.

In research efforts we carried out at the Irrigation Research Foundation (2004-2007), we determined that with a Strip Till then plant approach in irrigated corn the medium and fine roots increased 4.4X in number under strip till compared to a chisel/disk/springtooth harrow then plant system. Consequently the water infiltration rates improved from 0.6in/hr to 2.9in/hr and more in the 3 year study.

Modeling with X-ray tomography methods in Germany researchers have determined that soils that are compacted (in the upper 25cm-10inches) rely upon the biopores throughout the soil profile in small grains to take up water, nutrients, exchange gases (O2,NO, CO, CO2, etc) and to penetrate greater depths [M. Landl, A. Schnepf et. al, 2019].  Using some modeling processes the researchers simulations suggest that the influence of biopores on root water uptake differs for different soil densities as well as soil types. Due to the larger increase in rooting depth, vertical biopores had a more beneficial effect on root water uptake in more compact soil. Furthermore, the effect of biopores was more evident in a sandy loam than in silt loam due to the sandy loam’s higher soil hydraulic resistivity when the soil was nearer to hygroscopic water conditions.  Landl and her fellow researchers went on to say, the positive influence of biopores persisted even under the assumption of reduced root water uptake in biopores due to limited root–soil contact within the pores and was larger for dense soil than for loose soil, again this was specific to sandy loam textures over that of silt loam soils. Improvements of 9-24% more.  In Figure 1, the canola plant root (a taprooted crop) followed an old biopore until it hit the compacted zone then turned lateral.

Fig. 2 X-ray tomography images of canola root at 60-112 days growth entering the subsoil.  The yellowish root enters surface tilled soils in B, and encounters more dense (compacted zone)as plant matures from left to right in C, D and E.  Image courtesy Univ. of Adelaide, Australia

 

The images to the left depict a series of the X-ray tomographs from 60 days after emergence to approximately 112 days after and what transpired with root development as it encountered the compacted subsoil.  The red letter “a” points out across B-C-D-E where the roots enter biopores to penetrate the compacted zone.

Comments and Suggested Conclusions:

Both sets of authors I have referenced here have quantified to a degree that roots from subsequent crops are influenced significantly by size of biopores from previous years and tillage.  Our work at the IRF verify that old biopores that are still in tact and continuous into the subsoil influence root development and water uptake.  We determined in the IRF study that strip till played a significant role in larger biopores being developed in corn and accentuating roots to penetrate further into the soil profile.

These kinds of data for me say that a crop rotation of crops that leave larger pores (medium and large as described above) have a role in water management, potential drought survival, more potential for the crop to develop a robust root system and possibly yield improvements.  It is a goal of ours (Orthman) this coming summer with aid from an intern and the Vo-Ag students carryout some root length density observations where we will be 2 years corn on corn compared to last years soybean crop.  Keep tuned in.

 

References I used for this blog:

, & Precrop root system determines root diameter of subsequent crop, Biology and Fertility of Soils volume 52pages 113–118

Landl, M. et.al; 2019, Modeling the impact of biopores on root growth and root water uptake., Vadose Zone Journal, Vol.18, Issue 1, pp.1-20.

New information regarding placement of Phosphorus with Strip Tillage

I know I have brought before you all information stating that Phosphorus (P) placement can be maximized with Strip Till. This time I am going to touch upon that argument again because some more information has come to light with researchers in the U.K. and Germany just within the last couple of years, as well I want to share with some of our work at Orthman in root improvements with placement.

As a soil scientist working for USDA-NRCS before coming into the private world, I had 25 years of looking at over 420 root systems via post-harvest root digs in both rainfed and irrigated crops; now near 11 more years with Orthman Manufacturing I have more than doubled that number. That said, I have not had the privilege to see roots of corn, soybeans, dry edibles, sunflowers, small grains, canola and other crops with the X-ray computer tomography technologies.  All my efforts have been more hands-on and crop destructive by digging a 3 dimensional pits and teasing out the living roots then sketch a diagram of said roots.  I say this to allow you to compare my information, data compared to what the researchers I typed about in the first paragraph.

The researchers; Morris et al. from the United Kingdom, University of Nottingham in Current Biology wrote that there are several variations of why roots develop and form a specific architecture or shape early in its growth to maturity due to environmental signals, what are called biotic and abiotic.

  • Gravity is the first; roots have the ability to sense direction of gravity very early on. Within 8 hrs after the seed planted imbibes water which is 10-12 hrs prior to root emergence.  This is called positive gravitropism.

  • Light – sunlight that is. Plant roots are negatively phototropic, they grow away from light.

  • Each plant species have differing angles of roots depending upon different classes of roots; primary, seminal, adventitious and so on.

  • Biotic stresses – insects, soil organic matter, microbial and fungal (mycorrhizae) help or hindrances

  • Abiotic stresses – nutrient gradients in the soil, N,P,K, S etc, compaction, and dried out zones

  • Soil water content and replenishing of soil water

  • Soil structure: blocky vs prismatic vs granular vs massive

  • Soil pores; continuous and non-continuous from the soil surface

  • Neighboring plant roots

In this segment of the Precision Tillage agronomic blog I want to expand upon the fifth bullet point, stress or address the advantage from phosphate nutrients placed or absent.  I will attempt to go through the other bullet points in future blogs.

We at Orthman have said and have observed in numerous fields’ better root structure, root numbers, size of roots, even measured root length density when P products are positively and precision placed.  We have stated clearly that there is a “sweet spot” where to place P in the soil with strip till (the Orthman 1tRIPr tool predominantly) and the research papers I have read bear that to be true. We have stated it is between 6 and 8 inches deep.  We have ascertained from reading and our own research that placement depth is when the plants root system is in full force extracting nutrients from 6 to 10 inches depth.  In a fashion folks we have not been telling you all a far-fetched story of fairy dust and the planet Mars having water to drink or irrigate crops with in the year 2155.  Soybean research carried out by scientists [F.D. Hansel et al., 2017] in southern Brazil noted that soybeans using triple superphosphate placed with a strip till method compared to No-Till broadcast and No-Till banded.  These data depict that root length density (RLD) at the 6 to 8 inch zone below the surface in the deep banded strip till P was 58% greater than the No-Till broadcast P approach and 46% improved than No-Till banded P at planting time. Their yield results had little penalty under the strip till compared to No-Till.  At depths of 8 to 12 inches, I saw from their graphs at one site 72% more RLD in strip till compared to No-Till P being broadcast on the surface and at the second site, 38-62% more RLD.  All of this and more is in the paper published in Agronomy Journal referenced at the end of this agronomic blog.

I am including some diagrams to illustrate the point of increased RLD in a specific zone due to placed phosphorus fertility as the scientists from Brazil share from soybeans and of Orthman’s work [soybeans, cotton & corn] and research in barley.

Cotton – Orthman Field research 2013 -Conventional Tillage with surface banded P in Texas

Orthman Field research 2013 – Texas Strip Till Cotton with deep banded P prior to plant

 

From the images to your left you can observe that the surface banded P&K cotton plants show shallow roots in the first set of laterals of the cotton plant in the conventionally tilled portion of the field, then in the remainder of the field the grower strip tilled with an Orthman 1tRIPr and placed a portion of his P&K nutrients with the strip till pass at 6 inches depth.  The plants exerted effort to send laterals at 6-7 in, then 9 to 10 inches and a set of laterals at 18 inches deep.

The total depth of the strip tilled cotton was 29 inches deep and the volume of roots was near 45-50% more in total volume of the soil explored compared to the conventionally tilled cotton and surface banded P&K at planting time.

Cotton yields in bales per acre.  Conventionally tilled cotton yielded 2.9 bales or 1595lbs lint per acre and the strip till yields were 3.4 bales or 1870lbs lint per acre.
(These cotton plots were in the Sunray, Texas area.)

 

 

 

Irrigated soybeans – Orthman Research Farm 2010 Conv Till vs Strip Till with P&K placement (Near Lexington, NE)

In these images to your left and below, soybeans that were strip tilled and conventionally disk-spring field cultivator depict differences from our root excavations.  All delineations are in inches both depth and laterally.

The soybeans that were strip tilled and P&K placed at 6 1/2 inches deep show more total root numbers and soil volume explored in the first 24 inches as well as in final depth at 53 inches ST vs 44-45 inches deep under the conventionally tilled scenario.

Yield in bushels per acre (bpa).  The conventionally tilled soybeans were 62bpa and the soybeans under the strip till yielded 73bpa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image down and to your left depicts barley (Hordeum vulgare).  Deep banding of varying nutrient loads are shown between the two dark lines.  The authors of this work in their illustrations depict a larger mass when plants are deep banded with phosphorus and nitrate nitrogen.  This was not strip till research, but work from Hodge shown below, but it depicts what does happen with banded nutrients in a small grain.

Barley root systems enhanced by deep banding various nutrients at the 5 to 7 inch depth with the use of a coulter injection tool.

 

Below are two root systems from irrigated corn research from eastern Colorado at the Irrigation Research Foundation Research Centre near Yuma, CO, 2009. Research funded by Colorado Corn Growers Association and Monsanto.

The root system (see below) of corn which was strip tilled with the Orthman 1tRIPr and liquid N-P-K was applied compared to plots of No-Till corn, same variety and relative maturity day length on the right.  The precision placed nutrient load was the same equivalent of what was used via the 1tRIPr, was band sprayed (15inches wide) one day after the pass of the planter over the row area.  Both areas of the field were planted at 32K plants per acre.

The root system is deeper is 28% deeper, the root mass is 34% more in volume of soil-to-root density with the strip tilled corn compared to the Direct Seeded corn.   The roots in the No Till corn have a wider lateral spread away from the trunk of the plant in the upper 5-6 inches of the soil profile.  In a drought scenario the NoTill corn could suffer.  What we did notice that the No Till called for 2.5 inches more irrigation to be applied under overhead sprinkler irrigation.

The end result was fewer bushels per acre with the No Till or Direct Seed method at harvest time.  Yields; NT – 209 bpa vs ST – 216 bpa.  Water saved was 2.5-3 inches of applied water with the Strip Till and a 7 bpa improved yield.

To Summarize:

From the research efforts of others across the pond and here what we have observed at Orthman; we can offer you these points….

  1. Precision placed P&K has contributed to better P & K uptake

  2. Positive placed nutrients increases biomass of the roots and above ground plants

  3. The illustrations of soybeans, cotton, barley and corn offer strong evidence of more roots which in-turn can obtain more nutrients and water

There can be yield improvements, depending upon climatic concerns; rain, drought, hail and winds.  Our trials in cotton, soybeans and corn all provided some positive results in final grain and lint yield.

Mid-season 50 old corn plants (irr.) on left, Strip Till  w/Deep placed P&K at 6in. a proliferation of roots in orange circled areas.
On right, No-Till surface applied P&K which are mostly immobile in  calcareous soils such as these in Eastern Colorado, orange
outlined area shows where majority of roots are

There is still much more research that is being carried out regarding placement, the right products, the correct timing of application of nutrients beyond nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium the major three of the macro-elements.

Referenced Material I used and read for this blog article:

Morris, E.C., 2017, Shaping 3D root system architecture. Current Biology 27, pg 919-930
McNear, et al., 2013, The rhizosphere – Roots, soil and everything in between. Soil, Agriculture and Agricultural Biotechnical Engineering, 4(3) 1-
Hodge, A., 2004,  The plastic plant: Root responses to heterogeneous supplies of nutrients., New Phytologist 162:9-24
Meurier, F., et al., 2020.  Hydraulic conductivity of soil grown lupine and maize unbranched roots and maize root-shoot junctions. Journal of Plant Physiology  In Press
Peng, Y. et al., 2012,  Temporal and spatial profiling of root growth revealed novel response of maize roots under various nitrogen supplies in the field.  PLoS ONE 7(5) e37726

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple-three new facts about the Farmers Nemesis – Compaction

I think everyone who have been reading PrecisionTillage.com have come to getting the idea that we at Orthman Manufacturing have a very reasonable grasp on the big issue surrounding soil compaction that pesters growers using larger and heavier equipment.  Agronomic scientists and practioners from all over the globe, who study, evaluate compacted soils using penetrometers to assess the intensity or severity of dense soils is dealing with how to deal with the issue and how to minimize compactions effects. I know I continue to make strides to keep current and educate myself and the team here at Orthman regarding the limiting effects of soil compaction.  Just in the last week I have come across some little known facts that I want to place in front of you.

Where is it that soil density starts to impede (slow down) root elongation and penetration of the soil profile?  Impedance is observed in the range of 1.2 to 2.0MPa (174 to 290psi) of resistance measured by cone penetrometers.  Most plants we grow can easily create those kinds of force at the root tip when 70-85 days of age after emergence with adequate water resources being available.  A question though comes to the forefront, what about when the corn, soybean, grain sorghum, cotton or peanut plant roots are less than 40 days after emergence?  I say this because once roots encounter resistance in the soil above 2.0MPa, the root length can be decreased between 50 – 60% of normal growth and extension.  Certain species like alfalfa have high energy levels and turgid pressures

Fig. 1:   Heavy traffic prior to planting shows strong evidence of plant emergence that  has been reduced consistently by seeing the traffic pattern 

as well they are larger in diameter in the existing roots which I read in 10 different scientific papers provide the ability to penetrate more dense soils. When soil resistance exceeds 2.7MPa in maize root tip extension comes almost to a halt.  It has been measured in young maize (corn) plants in greenhouse potted plant studies that at the root tip there can be at 35-40 days after emergence from 40 to 140 psi (≤1.0MPa) of force to extend roots  into more dense soils to attain water and nutrients.  When roots cannot press the root tip through dense soils they will deform or become more plastic to change axial directions and seek an existing biopore (old root channel) to continue elongation.  Recent efforts in soil core studies with compacted layers and X-ray computer tomography technology, Nottingham University – U.K. determined that new roots will colonize (their term) old root biopores. Root tips are able to sense the change in oxygen levels from the pore and then grown downward many times co-mingling with other roots.

As we consider those kinds of values I believe we all should be taking a look in our fields before we pull the planters into the field next April for you folks in the Northern Hemisphere to gauge if any compaction is going to cause plant growth issues, water penetration and permeability of water into the deeper zones of your soil profiles.  Then roots will get there too. Soil strength (compaction) is a leading major cause of inadequate rooting. It affects nearly all soil bio-physico-chemical properties such as soil porosity, water conductivity, microbial populations can be reduced (especially aerobic bacteria), plant resistance to disease or insects, and nutrient availability.  Millions of acres (hectares) of agricultural lands are affected globally.

When root systems of corn for instance are retarded or held up to only explore and grow in the upper 20 – 24 inches of a soil profile, the water supply and nutrient supplies will be exhausted before the growing season is over.  Thusly limiting total biomass that needs to be developed and yields of grain or forage will suffer.

In your tillage management thinking, prior to planting, if you are seeing evidence of compacted soils with less than desired plant stands, water runoff or ponding, ruts from harvest or spray rigs, purple looking corn early last season, stunting, floppy corn early in season, use of tandem disks when it was wet – look into the Conservation Tillage method of Strip Till.  Compaction is almost every time man derived.  But it does not mean a moldboard plow or a massive ripper tool is the answer to fix what happened.  Check out us here at Orthman or a dealership that sells Orthman strip till implements, we would like to help, suggest and point your eyes in a direction of a very top notch Strip Tillage Systems approach.

From all of that in a quick summary, what is it that is new that we have not talked about before?

  1. Impedance(in soils) when observed in the range of 1.2 to 2.0MPa (174 to 290psi) roots are dramatically slowed

  2. Once roots encounter resistance in the soil above 2.0MPa, the root length can be decreased between 50 – 60% of normal growth and extension

  3. Recent efforts with compacted layers and X-ray computer tomography technology as roots attempt to penetrate compaction they can sense oxygen levels improve and change their tip growth direction to extend into a biopore, worm tunnel or old root cavity

I will keep you up-to-date with new items on this website as I read, come across or learn new material. Do not hesitate to contact any of us when you see on the Home page of this website via the Contact tab.

Northeast Community College – Norfolk, NE Looking to Cooperate with Orthman Mfg and AKRS John Deere

November 25th a small group all spaced out and wearing masks as though we were planning the next stagecoach robbery of the 1880’s – we met to discuss and evaluate for all parties (AKRS John Deere, Orthman Mfg and NECC) a new venture in how strip till is a viable option for advanced precision placement of dry fertilizer products on a section of the NECC farm.  Numerous other partners are working with the college to study new technology from Population of soybeans SmartFirmer add-ons to emergence studies of corn and soybeans to the Soil Health Project.  Seed companies, Fertilizer distributors, implement representatives, SARE, USDA-NRCS all have been involved in the 2020 Applied Field efforts of research to educate and inform students and members of the larger community of NE Nebraska. Looks like many will return for 2021.

Newest addition for the Agricultural Center at NECC-Norfolk, NE

We at Orthman and AKRS-John Deere are excited to be part of what can happen for the entire Agriculture community and students that attend NECC.

The image to the left is still under construction and partially in use as of November 2020.

It is Orthman and AKRS-John Deere’s hope to work with the farm manager at NECC to study some issues of whether compaction with large frame rubber tired 8R series tractors and 8RX track tractors is better, worse or in-between.  Along with that we will be strip tilling with the tried and true Orthman 1tRIPr and placing dry fertilizer precisely under the soil surface to look at efficiency, proper feeding of the corn root system, and potential yield.  This will be compared to a more standard method of dry broadcast.  Our hope is to communicate with the Soil Health Partnership folks as well.

Keep coming back to this website for updates as we move into 2021 with the eager team at NECC.

2020 Orthman Post Harvest Exploration of Roots Enhanced by the Strip Till System

Today I am offering you a look at how well the roots of the hybrid we strip tilled in fertility two-three weeks prior to planting back in early April of this year [2020].  This information and root map is on the Orthman coordinated approach at the McNaught farm north and east of Polk, Nebraska in some beautiful loess derived soils.

I want to describe the root system in regards to what features are enhanced with our (Orthman Mfg) approach to foundational work in the upper portions of the soil profile.  Alleviating compaction, developing a seedbed and placing an initial balanced, nutritional dinner plate of goodies in the soil for the young plant is all part and parcel of this approach.  We want growers to set up their crop for reaching the intended farmers goals.  Yes there are those that shoot for the 300 bushel club, many details have to work just so – one being climatic factors of rain, plenty of sunlight (2020 was good for that), no big winds or hail.  There is yes the concept of hybrid selection.  Not all hybrids of corn will magically excel with Strip-Till.  However knowing more and more about how corn responds in the environment we create with the Strip Till approach can provide some great yields that make the grower return on his investment and – profit.

To your left is the root profile of a Pioneer hybrid 1185Q we planted on April 29th at 30,000 seeds per acre with a final population of 29,640.  The depth of the soil profile is numbered on the right side of the Y axis (vertical). Then on the left side of that vertical axis is the quadrant depths of dividing up the root profile by volume in quartiles. In volume the root system was 65% 0-14 inches, 20% 14-27 inches, 10% 27-48 inches and 5% to the depth of 70 inches.  All of this was excavated by us with a small TrackHoe provided by our good cooperating John Deere folks, AKRS in Osceola, NE.  This view of the the profile details where the first 65% of the roots take up volume, absorb water and nutrients and then the next 20% and so on.  The dominant 95% of the root profile extended to 48 inches – that is a fantastic root system.  We calculated the root-soil volume for this hybrid to be 6,090 cubic inches of soil explored by roots.  All of this better evaluates from our expertise in Soils and Agronomy here at Orthman Mfg what changes a Strip Till system does to growing big corn and better yields.  I have been engaged in observing soil-root pits post-harvest usually every year for over 24 years with USDA-NRCS and now 14 years for Orthman, some 1745 root pits.   For those of you wanting to know, this hybrid tipped the scales at 60.5lbs/bushel and 256.5 bu/acre (and that was with some percentage of wind damage that caused GreenSnap in July).

An important feature from this root dig folks, is that we see a better profile of the underground root system with Strip Tillage and proper below ground placement of fertility products.  We also counted the number of roots in the root crown to be 50 out of the potential of 60-62 roots per plant.  That helps in the overall yield potential at  reaching 83% of the maximum root number growth per plant.  Since 98% of the nutrients are brought into the plant via the root system taking it from the soil solution and the great relationship of bacteria in the soil living on the root as well as mycorrhizal fungi symbiotically feeding its host – the corn roots in the upper 10-12 inches. This all makes what you plant seeds for come to the 100 fold and more multiplication factor of one seed become reality.  Whether you consider Direct Seeding or Multiple pass Tillage or Strip Till then plant as what you see is best for you – we desire all to see what Orthman Manufacturing, Inc does to educate, inform and cooperate in on-farm studies with others in the Ag Industry to improve the farmers lot in life.  Our cooperators; AKRS John Deere, SureFire Ag,  Nutrien, North Forty Seed are all associated with us to offer a scientific approach to producers and see the benefits by doing it joining hands and efforts.

My questions to any of you as you read down this far and gazed at the root profile; do you know your rooting profile by hybrids you plant in your soils?  Does it seem to provide you in this information that top performance comes from better management practices in your tillage, your fertility program, your management of water either rainfall or irrigation? Did you place nutrients not just Nitrogen below the growing plant wisely?  If that has not what you’re experiencing presently wherever you till soils, we sure would like to engage with you, offer our expertise, our skills from our Territory Sales Managers as well as my own, and our strong built tillage tools now since 1965 to move the economic yield needle for you.

You can reach us at our email addresses located on the Home Page of this site under the Contact Us tab. As the leader nationally and internationally in Strip Tillage we really want to provide up-to-date resources for all to go the next steps in being the best manager of your soils and water resources that get solid yields every year.  Our partners that I mentioned in the 4th paragraph are of that same mindset folks.  We want to Get To Work For You. 

Orthman Corn Research – Yield per Cubic Inch of soil that had roots .. A Different Way to Consider Efficiency

Just this last week (10/26/2020 – 10/30/2020) some of us Orthman were back doing some final work in the field to identify and quantify the root zone that provided us the yields we obtained even with 30-35% GreenSnap problems that plagued us from mid-July until harvest.  Insurance soothed some of that issue that is for sure.

So Pat and I got a small John Deere TracHoe from AKRS in Osceola, NE and dug some pits that we had to go deep to find the total extension of the roots down in the soil profile.  Our discovery was a pleasant outcome, not a surprise to me the “Soil Badger” at all.  Along with that we did some calculations to further express what the yields were in regard to number of bushels per square inch of the soil profile that had roots which we exposed.  Look in the small table below.

 As you look at this table we are determining did the soil profile both efficiently and effectively grow a crop that says it was a top producing hybrid plus – a corn crop that performed very well with the water available.

Now consider the rainfall and water that came via irrigation in the next table below as to efficiency and effectively putting kernels on the cob.

 

A bit more of a standard method to consider what each inch of moisture accomplished in the manner of efficiency and use of water.  Do remember a larger root system and rootzone to attain that moisture has a lot to do with what is the outcome in the way of yield.
So at Orthman we are going to look at what the tillage  tool does, how can we influence and create a better root zone for your crop to meet your expectations.  Another feature we can mention here; the first hybrid we planted and nutured was 1082, the roots went to 72 inches deep (that is down there folks).  The 1108 hybrid is what we planted for the majority of the farm and across the large 23 acre starter trial plot; the corn to use a phrase – drilled down 59 inches and the 1185 a new hybrid in the Pioneer hybrid trial plots went 70 inches deep.  Those extra inches of depth and how much of the root system we observed below 42 inches has a great deal with how they eventually yielded from those extra 30 inches of soil profile.

With Strip-Till providing a medium that grows bigger and better root systems and better placement of the pre-plant fertility – folks those items are part of the entire equation to make your corn yield as would like it to.  Having very deep soils (>60inches) helps a great deal and we know not everyone has that going for them in their fields.  Soils with high water holding capacity are also incredibly important, which the soils on the McNaught Farm do offer – 2.2 inches available per foot of soil root zone.  Everything considered in this idea of soil management and efficiency of water to a bushel of grain going into the bin today can make a grower scratch his/her head.  We like you to break it down to what your fields offer for you.  Todays growers, you folks understand that per pound of Nitrogen you want yield, per inch of water applied and what comes from rainfall all has to be part of what makes a crop and what makes sense in the way of profitability.

Here at Orthman our Territory Reps are very open to discussing this with you as am I the Agronomist for Orthman because we know as the leader in Strip Till we cannot sit back.  Offering different ways to consider what goes on with you at the Farmgate and when you go over your results of the 2020 yield picture – we are open to talking about the system and how it all works for YOU!