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Field Conditions Remain a Concern After Nebraska Flooding

Many questions are on farmers’ minds as they anticipate planting crops this season.

Among the devastating effects of flood damage to Nebraska communities and farms is that of field conditions in advance of planting.

Rick Rasby, associate dean of Extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explains, “The effects of flooding on soil will vary significantly depending on the location within the field, extent of flooding, and the extent of erosion/residue removal that has taken place.”

Flooding Effects on the Soil

With fine-texture soil that was already saturated due to the wet season we’ve seen so far, the short-term view is to avoid creating more problems.

“Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to predict the effects on a specific field, but there are some general concerns that should be addressed first. It is important to not make things worse. If there was a significant amount of soil movement on or off a particular field, it might create a field that cannot be traversed with field equipment. In those cases, it is important to avoid working on soils while saturated. This may exacerbate compaction issues that are long lasting instead of addressing the immediate need to rework or level the soil for machinery including irrigation system movement,” advises Rasby.

Outlook on Production

On the potential of fields this season, Rasby says, “Production losses are likely to occur on soils that have lost significant topsoil to erosion or gains from deposited soil.”

“One of the largest concerns going forward is the lost topsoil; with it goes production potential. Unfortunately, there is not a fix for this. The more immediate effect will be delayed planting, which will affect production this year. Some areas may not be able to be planted this year if predictions hold out for a wet spring,” comments Rasby.

Recommendations to Move Foward

John Wilson, extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recommends looking to the past for best practices. “After the flood of 2011, we had wind erosion and drifting, so there will be a real place for cover crops to help hold things in place and dry things out to get into the fields.”

Rasby recommends evaluating field needs to make a plan of action. “While the production potential lost is unknown, it is important to reassess fertility needs and supplement with fertilizer to maximize what productivity remains.”

For additional guidance on planting with soggy soils this year, read Four Steps for Corn Farmers to Survive a Soggy 2019.

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