All bets are off when you get 6 inches of rain in one day

Soybean Watch: This slideshow illustrates how a huge rain drew its own map of wet areas in the field.

“The White River got a lot of crops around here,” reported a farmer from Greene County in southwest Indiana. He was referring to flooding along a major tributary that, after big rains, continued to flood well into July.

Low ground along rivers aren’t the only areas affected by flooding this year. Some 6 inches of rain in less than 12 hours caused flash flooding across the Soybean Watch ’17 field, which is located nowhere near a creek, let alone a river. Six days after the huge rain, it was obvious that the instant floodwaters had painted a picture of where grass waterways and tile drainage could help in this field. The rain poured, stalk residue in the no-till field moved, soil moved, some areas went underwater, and not all soybeans survived.

It’s a classic case of how what happens in the Soybean Watch ’17 field can reflect what might be happening in other fields — maybe your fields — throughout the year.

Steve Gauck, a sales agronomist for Beck’s based in Decatur County, Ind., visited the field several days before the deluge. Beck’s sponsors Soybean Watch ’17.

Tough year
The soybeans were planted on June 6. Wet spring weather delayed planting. Gauck found slugs still active when he visited, even though it was almost July. Slugs were active all over the Midwest this year, he notes. “Cool, wet weather helped them hang on much longer than usual,” he says.

In the Soybean Watch ’17 field, they contributed to a thinner stand than expected. Gauck still estimated the population at more than 80,000 plants per acre in the worst spots, and said reduced population should not affect yield. Outside the worst area of the field, populations were over 100,000 plants per acre. “That is plenty of soybeans to achieve good yields,” he says.  

Then the rains came. Time will tell how much effect the flooding will have on yield. There will be at least minor impacts, because soybeans in the lowest area of the field were totally wiped out. Whether the effect of "wet feet" and too much water spreads out slowly as graduated yield loss from the spot where plants drowned, and reduces yield for a considerable distance around that epicenter, remains to be seen. Farmers have documented that this happens in corn. The yield map after harvest this fall will help determine how far the effects of the flooding reached in this field.

Plants where water stood for too long obviously won’t recover. All those spots together comprise a relatively small area of the field, but they cast a pall over what otherwise could still be a good field of soybeans, slugs or no slugs.

“We will keep watching it and see how the field reacts and develops,” Gauck says. “You can’t overcome some things. One of these is Mother Nature. If flooding takes out some areas, you just hope the other areas of the field do well and make up for it.”

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