Weather Variability and Micro-Agronomy

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not
~Author Unknown

It is human nature to find ourselves wishing for a kind of weather other than what we are currently experiencing. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry….we all want to live in Camelot where it rains only at night, winter is forbidden till December, and spring starts precisely on the 21st of March. But while weather variability is inevitable, every farmer has two real interests in the weather: how it affects their own yields (Micro-Agronomy) and how it can affect their crop marketing decisions by impacting total U.S. harvest numbers (Macro-Agronomy).

While we all have some idea about how weather affects crops locally, it’s no longer enough to follow Growing Degree Days (GDD) and rainfall and assume we have done our part. In order to achieve ‘optimal’ response to nutrient applications, we have to know what’s happening in the soil, and how plants are responding to temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind. In order to continue farming in a competitive environment growers need to know how they can take advantage of those changes in the weather. 

The availability of soil moisture continues to be the dominant factor in determining crop yields in the Midwest. Too much rain inhibits plant growth by saturating the soil and depriving it of necessary oxygen, leaching plant nutrients away from thirsty roots, and weakening the plants foundation. Too little soil moisture reduces the crop’s uptake of nutrients and prevents it from transpiring in a manner that optimizes photosynthesis. 

Solar radiation, humidity, and wind also factor into crop production efficiency. Corn, being a C4 plant, is generally not adversely affected by the normal range of these factors here in the Midwest as they do not vary enough from year to year to affect corn yields.

oybeans, as a C3 plant, are sensitive to the need for solar radiation and a preponderance of overcast days can slow their development and decrease yields.

Tools that fine-tune these concepts will help growers schedule production practices to efficiently optimize crop growth and yields. Several products under development by Ag-Informatics will give growers that advantage.

We’ll have a post about weather variability and macro-agronomy up in a few days.