Agronomy Advice
January 18, 2024

How to Recover Waterlogged Root Systems

Many may have hoped for a white Christmas, but all we got was rain.. lots of it. Fields are saturated, bringing plenty of challenges for arable farmers

Farmer reviewing the soil with his hand
Farmer reviewing the soil with his hand

Waterlogged Soils 

Farming is all about balance isn’t it? Weather can challenge that balance and whilst we can’t control the weather, we can control our response to it, by minimising the damage. The first step is to understand the problems of having waterlogged soils.

  1. Nutrient availability - With so much water running through our soils, mobile nutrients, such as phosphate (P), will leach away.
  2. Soils are anaerobic - Soil pores (spaces between soil particles) are full of water rather than air and oxygen. Obviously, oxygen is needed by soil organisms for respiration and is therefore required for nutrient movement from the soil into the roots.
  3. Threat to crop roots - If soils are waterlogged root growth slows and eventually stops. At this time of year, this will particularly affect the secondary root systems which, if encouraged to grow, will have the most surface area and therefore take up the most nutrition. Without these secondary roots, plant growth will be affected.

So, how do we deal with these issues? There’s little we can do about the amount of moisture in the soil, it will remain anaerobic until things start to dry up, but that doesn’t mean we have to put up with the negative repercussions of that (lack of nutrients and stunted crop growth)

By applying appropriate nutrients when our crops need them most, we can get around the impact of wet soils. This will help in two ways:

  1. Recover root systems - Both P and potassium (K) support good root growth and development. At this time of year we know that P availability is particularly limited, so applying fresh P and K in the spring will undoubtedly recover crop root systems more quickly.
  2. Increase wheat tillers - Trials have shown that early, higher rates of nitrogen are beneficial to the number of tillers/m2 in winter wheat crops. You could see as much as a 20% increase in tillers with a rate of 70-100kgN/ha rather than 40kgN/ha in that first application.

Yara's Recommendation 

For a first application that replenishes P and K as well as delivering a healthy dose of nitrogen to maximise tiller production, Yara would recommend YaraMila 52S

As many of us weren’t able to get onto the fields throughout a very wet autumn, our final recommendation is to apply foliar P at the T0 timing. We would suggest applying YaraVita Crop Boost as it gives the crops an energy boost when it needs it most.

Use YaraMila 52 S followed by  Yarabela Axan in your crop nutrition programme this season. Both include essential sulphur for increased Nitrogen Use Efficiency, meaning less nutrient wastage and more yield for your money.