Monday, May 20, 2013

Planting time musing

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

Weather is fascinating. It surprises you in many ways. After months of conversation about not having moisture in the ground and a slow recovery from drought, here we are, talking about too much water in the ground! The level of anxiety among fruit and vegetable producers is on the rise. We at the Horticulture Research Station are on the same page. Every time one waits for a sweet 2-3 window to till the soil and roll the plastic mulch layer, a thunderstorm rolls in with 1-2 inches of water!

Things are a little different at the eastern end of the state, thanks to the well-drained sandy soils. It rains but you can be in the field the next day. But they have their own woes with lower organic matter and water holding capacity soils. At the Muscatine Island Research Station, Fruitland, IA  our sweet corn is 2-3 inches tall and the potatoes have sprouted and getting ready to come up the soil. We installed lysimeters in our potato sweet corn biochar study on 05-08-2013 to collect water leaching out of those soils. It will be an interesting finding to know how much of nitrates are being tied up by the biochar. A large number of high tunnel growers would be happy that this intermittent rainfall is not creating problems with their planting schedules. Most high tunnel growers have planted their crop and are looking forward to a good growing year. Our tomato plastic mulch study at the Armstrong Research Station, Atlantic, IA got planted 05-10-2013.
    Sweet corn at Muscatine
Lysimeter installed
Plastic mulch study at Armstrong Research  Station
Our lab was all excited for today (05-20-2013) to start laying our plastic mulch but the rain last night played a spoilsport. Oh well, there are things to get done in the lab. So here we are, waiting 2-3 days for that perfect level of soil moisture where the plastic mulch is laid down to perfection (straight, tight, and with good soil contact). 

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