How to achieve high biomass when crops are waterlogged

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Biomass is vital for achieving high grain yields in your cereal crops. When waterlogged conditions occur, as we’ve experienced this winter, nutrient deficiencies can result due to the root-system damage. This means a limiting of early spring growth and development, reducing the number of tillers produced. How then can we help support the foundation for high biomass establishment?

According to Natalie Wood, Agronomy operations manager at Yara, we can take action to foster a robust population of main shoots and tillers, which will in turn benefit biomass. “The tillering phase commences after leaf 3 is fully expanded,” says Natalie. “This generally finishes when the ‘double-ridge’ stage of development is reached, usually by mid-March. Appropriate use of inputs can manipulate the final number of tillers – especially crop nutrition.”

Why is this necessary? Because the root structures of waterlogged crops are compromised – when the roots are damaged or smaller than usual, this means they struggle to scavenge what nutrients may remain the soil. Phosphate, which is vital for root growth, is unavailable at soil temperatures below 8°C for example.

Fresh applications important

“As little to no P is available in the soil during early spring, fresh applications become even more important,” says Natalie. “Solid P applications are somewhat inefficient. Foliar P applications should be considered as an early option.”

A foliar application of phosphate delivers an ‘energy boost’ to the crop. This grants the immediate benefit of stimulating root and shoot growth by way of recovery and repair, but also builds long-term resilience, making it more likely that the crop can overcome potential future stress points.

“If you do choose to apply foliar P then do so as soon as you can travel,” adds Natalie. “However, make sure you’re ready to come back quickly – ideally with an application of NPKS. This will help ensure the crop maintains its momentum and doesn’t run out of steam just after it gets going.”

“If your crops are likely to have suffered from waterlogged conditions, using the right foliar product can help kick-start cereal growth at this crucial early phase.”

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.