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PFR Learning Study: Plant Architecture Impact on Water Availability

Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Each year we conduct hundreds of studies on hundreds of products and practices to help farmers be more profitable. These studies and the results we publish are focused on improving yields and ROI.

BUT! Each year we also have an awesome team of PFR interns who conduct PFR Learning Projects. These projects/studies are tested at multiple locations and usually over multiple years and are primarily focused on garnering field-level observations and data collection.

One of the most interesting PFR Learning Studies that has been conducted over the years is the Plant Architecture Impact on Water Availability.

With this study, our team set out to quantify a corn plant's ability to funnel rain from the leaves to the base of the plant and magnify rainfall. 

HOW WAS THE STUDY CONDUCTED?

The teams at multiple locations placed rain-catching funnels in corn fields in both the middle of the row and the base of the corn plants. The funnels were all the same diameter and were placed in fields with corn at or around the V5 growth stage to ensure the canopy was not closed at the time of the rain event. Observations were noted after each rainfall regarding the amount of rainfall captured in both funnels.  

SO, DOES A CORN PLANT REALLY MAGNIFY RAINFALL?

The short answer? Yes! After light rain events, it was clearly noticeable that the middle of the rows were dry, but the base of the plant was moist, showing the effect of the corn plants “funneling” rainfall and moisture, usually magnifying the total captured by 3-4 times.  

 

In this study, knee-high corn at V5 was observed and the plants magnified ¼ in. of rain in the rain gauge to ½ in. at the base of the corn plant. At head-high corn (VT) the plants magnified ¼ in. of rain in the rain gauge to over 1 in. at the base of the corn plant. 

HOW CAN THIS BE APPLIED?

The funneling effect is great for dry spells and periods with very light rains, but this theory is also great when considering late-season nitrogen applications.

Did you know that:

  • 70% of a corn plant’s roots are within 7 in. of the base of the plant?
  • A corn plant acquires more than 60% of its nitrogen within 7 in. from the base of the stalk?

Nitrogen is typically one of the most expensive inputs farmers factor into their budget each year, so getting the most efficiency out of each application is crucial for profitability. And water is critical for nitrogen uptake to deliver the nitrogen to the roots of the plant.

Utilizing nitrogen placement applicators like the 360 Y-DROP or Unverferth's Nutrimax System can be beneficial for late-season nitrogen applications to the root zone with the presence of water at the base of the plant. 

The 360 Y-DROP system delivers nitrogen two to three inches from the root zone while Unverferth's NutriMax System is a dual delivery system that includes a single coulter with a blade and injection nozzle or knife coupled with a coulter-mounted drop hose on each side. 

360 Y-DROP System

UNVERFERTH NUTRIMAX SYSTEM

Both of these systems are excellent ways to capitalize on the water magnified by the funneling of the corn crop to increase the impact of nitrogen applications. 

 

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Author: Ellie Schuler

Categories: PFR

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