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Deeper planting helps germination after drought
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Deeper planting helps germination after drought

Soybean sprout in dry soil

When dry conditions are expected, increasing planting depth to 1½ inches from ¾ inch will help ensure that all seeds have adequate moisture to germinate.

Getting the crop off to a good start is critical, and it all begins with germination.

There is a possibility for a dry start to next season. However, getting good seed germination in dry conditions is largely the same as for normal conditions.

“It’s still about the seed-to-soil contact,” said Mitch Montgomery with Golden Harvest. “Then they just have to imbibe the right kind of moisture.”

Montgomery said many farmers were planting into dry conditions in the spring of 2021, meaning they should have some experience already. He said automated downforce systems on planters were “worth every penny” last year, as that helped give proper seed depth based on the field and maintain uniformity.

He also said adjustable row cleaners were key for the crop getting off to a good start. With cool conditions during planting season last year, it helped sunlight warm up the soils before the seed was in the ground.

“We had several days or weeks where air temperature was around 50 degrees around much of Iowa,” he said. “We had some direct sunlight, so the soils were warm and in several cases the black strip where residue was removed was in the mid-to-high 50s. Just next to it where we kept that residue, the soil was still in the 40s.”

Susana Goggi, a seed physiologist from Iowa State University, said last year had a big impact on soybean seeds that will be planted this year, as rains late in the season helped seeds grow in the pod. Larger seeds generally have larger energy reserves, so in challenging environments, there is a chance they could be more resilient. Research has not consistently shown increased seed size means better yield or stand, however, she said.

“Coming off a year like 2021 with the drought issues we had, it did affect bloom retention on soybeans,” Goggi said. “We had relatively low pod count filled with a really favorable pod fill period, so we are going to have a lot of large seed. Nearly 2,400 seeds per pound.”

A soybean needs to imbibe 50% of its weight in water to initiate germination, which can be slowed by drought conditions. If germination is slow, stand and root development can be an issue, Goggi noted. When dry conditions are expected, increasing planting depth to 1½ inches from ¾ inch will help ensure that all seeds have adequate moisture to germinate. Additionally, seeds placed at that depth may be protected from extreme temperatures.

“We had more issues in the spring of 2021 from drought stress and having enough moisture to see germination than for any other issue,” she said. “It was a cool, dry spring. In 2022, if we break this drought, the whole approach changes.”

If that drought-breaking stretch comes, Montgomery said it would mean added importance on seed treatments and fungicide treatments, as more moisture could lead to issues.

“We may need to increase those treatments and ingredients for problems like Sudden Death and other problems like that,” Montgomery said.

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