Teachable Moment to Understand Why Soil Types Matter

In some counties if you know the soil type, you can guess the corn yield.

Published on: Sep 24, 2012

If soil type ever mattered, it mattered this year. Soils which allowed plants to run out of moisture first, and which left them to swelter on hot days typically produced little, if any corn. Within the same field other soil types may have raised 100 to 150 bushels per acre. It's one reason yield monitors jumped all over the board on the same pass through the field this fall on many farms in many fields.

Take a look at these soil pit profiles. These are holes dug four feet deep that reveal properties of the soil. These holes were used for various competitions this fall to teach soils evaluation to 4-H and FFA students.

In some counties if you know the soil type, you can guess the corn yield.
In some counties if you know the soil type, you can guess the corn yield.

Some general rules apply. Dark gray or light gray colors tend to indicate drainage problems. In a normal year this may be ground that floods out if it's in a low position. This year it may be where the yield monitor recorded the highest yield. Brown colors typically indicate better drainage. However, if there is a limiting layer, such as till so dense roots can't penetrate, then the crop may have performed poorly.

Here's a look at key properties in certain soils that could have affected crops on these soils this year.



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