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Flooded field syndrome could be an issue in 2012

Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011, at 9:38 AM

Soils can exhibit a condition called "Flooded Soil Syndrome" after extensive flooding due to the lack of plant growth in submerged areas. This condition exists where crops planted the year after an extended period with no plant growth exhibit reduced early growth and yield. The syndrome tends to affect corn more than soybean, but it can be an issue with soybean as well. On corn plants, the syndrome exhibits classis phosphorous (P) deficiency symptoms, including slow-stunted early growth, purple coloration, and poorly developed roots.

There are several possible causes for the syndrome. One most common suspected reason is the decreased survival of active mycorrhizae (AM) fungi due to the lack of host plants. These beneficial fungi form relationships with plant roots, particularly related to uptake of P and other nutrients with limited mobility in the soil. The AM fungi requires active roots in the soil. As the growing season progresses and plant growth progresses AM root colonization can increase to levels similar to that in non-flooded soil.

Another possible reason for the syndrome relates to increased strength of P retention by soil constituents. One mechanism that increases retention is the alternating conditions associated with water saturated soil and then with normal aerated or dry soil. Another mechanism is high sedimentation rates that provide a renewal of reactive materials with P retention sites.

How can this "possible" syndrome be managed? Following are several recommendations could either help prevent or mages this condition.

1. Plant a cover crop - This may be too late for this year but the cover crop would provide host plant roots for the re-colonization of AM fungi.

2. Soil test - For better results, especially for soil test P, allow time after the flood waters recede for soils to dry and return to a normal aerated state.

3. Apply more P than called for by soil test interpretations for normal soil conditions.

4. Apply P in the spring - This would avoid the period of increased soil retention that can occur shortly after soils dry.

5. Plant a crop that is not as susceptible to the syndrome - soybean and sorghum are not as susceptible.

6. If planting soybean - inoculate the seed. This would be especially important in fields with considerable deposition or soil disturbance.

Soil microflora is resilient and will naturally recover once flood waters recede. The practices listed will help with short=-term, flood-related crop production issues that may occur in 2012.

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As our local University of Missouri Agronomy Extension Specialist, Crook has been writing a column for the print edition Agriculture page for the past three years and we will now be sharing it on our web version. Crook has a bachelor and masters degree in agronomy from University of Missouri and received his doctorate in Agronomy from Kansas State University. He was in soybean variety development research for 22 years for various seed companies and has been Saline County's agronomy specialist for 10 years.
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