This is the peak irrigating time of year in Nebraska for corn and soybeans. The crops are using a great deal of water which is important to prevent as little stress on them, as possible. Most of the corn is at the stage where it is just starting to pollinate and if stressed, can lead to many problems. Soybeans are also just starting to use a great deal of water. Most soybeans are done putting on pods and are starting to put energy into seed development, which is one of the most crucial stages for soybean yields. In hot, dry conditions it is very important not to limit water use. If the beans become stressed, senescence may begin early and can severely impact yields. One of the hardest jobs that farmers and crop consultants face throughout the summer is deciding when to irrigate. There are many factors that must be considered. Two of the main factors are crop water use and the water holding capacity of the soil. One of the most important things that has to be done is measuring how much water is in the soil. This can be done in a variety of ways. The most common way is to dig out in the field with a shovel and feel how much moisture is in the soil. There are also soil moisture sensors that can be used to help identify when it is most profitable to run a center pivot to keep from stressing crops.
We must keep in mind that irrigation can be used for many things besides just applying water. We are seeing a substantial amount of western bean cutworm pressure in corn right now. This can have a definite effect on yield, if not controlled. One of the most common ways to treat a corn field for this pest is to apply an insecticide through the pivot. This works very well and is the cheapest way to treat a field for this pest. Other diseases being seen in corn right now are common rust and gray leaf spot and diseases in soybeans are frog eye leaf spot and septoria brown spot. These can be treated with a fungicide that should keep the disease from getting worse. A fungicide applied through the pivot is a good way to fight diseases and help yields. It is easy to see how important center pivots are for crop production in our area, and the many ways they can be used to help maximize yields and profits.