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CropTalk: Exploring Water Management Through PFR

August 2019

Published on Thursday, August 1, 2019

In light of the remarkedly wet season that most of the Midwest has experienced, irrigation is likely in the back of most farmers' minds right now. That said, we continue putting irrigation/fertigation systems to the test with our Practical Farm Research (PFR)®. In the case of sub-irrigation, three of our PFR sites have been able to utilize tile drainage systems in certain areas on the sites and backfl ow water through them for a multi-functional drainage plus irrigation system.

Two of our locations have Netafi m dripline installed that gives us the capability to deliver not only water, but also nutrients, through drip line that is installed at 13 in. under the crop at our Southern Illinois site (SIL) and 15 in. deep at our Central Indiana site (CIN). The system in SIL is set up to compare the drip line system in tiled and non-tiled areas versus an untreated check. The CIN system is set up as a high-yield plot with most of the nutrients being delivered via drip.

Over the three years of testing, we have seen advantages on corn that amount to 30 Bu./A. higher on the drip fertigation with tile drainage underneath and an 18.9 Bu./A. increase for drip line without tile versus the untreated control. In two of the three seasons, we endured conditions where tile drainage played a major role in the outcome of the yield data. The 2018 season was one of the most ideal seasons we have had in years and resulted in little to no difference between the control and the other treatments. Soybeans have shown a 13.1 Bu./A. advantage for the drip system with tile, and without tile has shown 12.2 Bu./A. advantage in a two year timeframe. With these kind of results, it’s exciting to see what the future continues to hold for drip fertigation treatments!

As for the sub-irrigation data, the CIN site has seen a seven-year advantage of 22.5 Bu./A. compared to the untreated check. At the SIL site, three years of data has shown a 16.1 Bu./A. advantage with sensor based sub-irrigation and a 17.5 Bu./A. advantage from manual sub-irrigation on corn. With the sensor based sub-irrigation, we are using CropX moisture sensors to manage the water table. The manual sub-irrigation we are using our best agronomic estimation based on evapotranspiration (ET), weather forecasts, and soil moisture at the surface.

Along with the impressive results on corn, soybeans have shown a 12.8 Bu./A. advantage for sensor based subirrigation while the manual has shown a 10.7 Bu./A. advantage in the same three year timeframe.

Last, but definitely not least, in the 400 bushel attempt at the CIN site, where drip fertigation along with tile drainage is utilized as a high management system, we reached a high yield of 388.1 Bu./A. Last year, the four hybrid average yield ranged from 333.8 Bu./A. at 38,000 seeds/A. to 353.8 Bu./A. at 50,000 seeds/A.! Plans to attempt to reach 400 Bu./A. are ongoing for the 2019 season. Stay tuned for more after harvest!

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Jonathan Perkins

Jonathan Perkins

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