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Split-planting dates help manage water

Joe Reinart has found a way to use water more efficiently in his corn production near Stratford, Texas, that involves the calendar and planter as much as sprinkler pivots.

Reinart was a 2012 growing season cooperator in the third year of the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District’s 200-12 corn project in Sherman County. The North Plains District’s effort is in collaboration with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Profitable Irrigation in Corn and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research 12-200 corn project. All are directed toward producing profitable yields of corn on substantially less water on the North Plains.

In 2012 Reinart split corn planting dates on a 120-acre circle supplied by one 600-gallon-per-minute irrigation well. He halved the circle and planted one side to a 116-day corn variety on April 24. The other half was seeded to a 111-day variety on May 15.

Key Points

• Segregating crops of different planting dates helps with water management.

• The method allows for same water use but leass plant stress during summer heat.

• The practice could grow in use if the insurance date is tweaked.

“I’ve been trying split planting dates for two or three years in order to spread out my available water. Planting part of the crop later delayed grain fill, allowed some escaping heat stress issues, and saved some water. Planting half early and half late let me partition the water off in the field, and allowed me to concentrate the 600-gpm capacity of the well on 60 acres. I had more water available to a smaller acreage,” Reinart says.

It’s a plan

Reinart has been so pleased with the results of splitting a field with two planting dates that he says he’ll probably make split plantings a routine practice on all of his corn circles.

Nicholas Kenny, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension irrigation specialist from Amarillo, says crop insurance planting deadlines may actually be costing High Plains producers water by barring them from planting as late as June 1. “If we could get the corn planting cutoff date for crop insurance purposes postponed to June 1, that would save us a lot of water here on the North Plains,” he says.

A later planting date for corn could mean less pressure from spider mites that routinely attack during moisture stress, he says. But it might require Bt hybrids for protection from Southwestern corn borer and fall armyworms.

Reinart agrees.

“Moving the crop insurance cutoff date for corn planting later would help. We could get around some heat stress issues and maybe use a little less water if we could wait until June 1 to plant,” he says. Reinart’s split corn plantings in 2012 used almost the same acre-inches, with only about a 2-inch difference between the April and May plantings.

Reinart also prefers to postpone preplant irrigation as late as possible, and found a dramatic difference in fields when he cut down on the height above the ground of the spray heads delivering water to the crop.

Steiert writes from Hereford, Texas.


TIME TO SPLIT: Joe Reinart has been splitting sprinkler circles — planting half at an early date, the other half at a later date. The practice lets him concentrate irrigation more effectively on smaller acreages when corn’s water needs are highest.

This article published in the November, 2012 edition of IRRIGATION EXTRA.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.