Saturday, September 25, 2021

Soil management immediately after the flood

• By Larry Oldham •

flooded Mississippi field
Be patient and don’t put heavy equipment in recently flooded fields too soon. They could cause compaction — photo by Tucker Miller

Flooding is challenging Mississippi families, homes and farms again, hence, this should be a review for many readers. The first Mississippi Crop Situation post about flooded soils was published in May 2011.

There is more experience now, documented by Dr. Jac Varco (retired MSU Plant and Soil Sciences) during the 2019 MSU Extension Row Crop Short Course, and publications by Dr. Gurpeet Kaur and others of the National Center for Alluvial Aquifer Research in Stoneville.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service crop progress report for the week ending June 6 found peanuts and sweet potatoes as the only ‘summer’ crops less than 60% planted, and about a fifth of the winter wheat crop had been harvested.

Since the report was released a few days ago, copious amounts of rainfall have created significant issues for people, and inevitably for significant acres of growing crops in north Mississippi.

At this point, human safety is paramount over crop rescue options in severely impacted fields. Use appropriate precautions around the water and when working in the landscape after the water subsides.

In addition to sediment, flood water carries whatever may be swept up in its progress. In addition to dissolved substances, there may be both dead and live animals, uprooted trees and other solid detritus.

To avoid soil compaction issues, do not rush clean-up efforts as soils will be waterlogged for some time after this rain series passes.

Heavy equipment traffic on wet soils leads to compaction layers 10 to 20 inches below the surface that result in more problems such as reduced water holding capacity and effective rooting zone in the future. Restrict field traffic if necessary to specified areas.

Information about managing nutrients in the different post-flood soil environment will be provided as the situation develops.

Dr. Larry Oldham is a Mississippi State University Extension soils specialist. He may be reached at larry.oldham@msstate.edu.

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