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Crop Management

[Wheat - Reuters]


- Overview

Adoption of best crop management practices increases crop productivity and contributes to higher yields and improved quality. Crop management is a set of agricultural practices performed to improve the growth, development and yield of crops. It begins with seedbed preparation, seed planting, and crop maintenance; it ends with crop harvesting, storage, and marketing.

The timing and sequence of agricultural practices depends on several factors, such as winter or spring crops; harvested products, such as grain, hay, and silage; sowing methods—both seed and row crops; and plant age, soil, climate, and weather conditions.

Considering recommended crop management practices may result in higher yields and an excellent marketable product. Adopting consistent crop and soil management systems on the farm will develop more resilient crop production systems and provide more sustainable crop yields. Managing and reducing input costs is critical to profitability.


- Seedbed Preparation

Seedbed preparation is the first step in improving crop growth and development. An ideal seedbed is even and firm, with adequate soil moisture near the surface, and free from competition from weeds. "Good seed-to-soil contact is required" is a common phrase in sowing documents. Seed germination will improve if the seeds are in good contact with the soil. However, a bed that is too hard can make it difficult for the seeds to get into the soil.

The two main methods of seedbed preparation are conventional tillage and reduced or no-tillage. Traditional conventional tillage involves turning the entire tillage depth and exposing large amounts of soil organic matter to oxidation. However, reduced-till or no-till practices lead to soil carbon accumulation, which ultimately benefits soil health and increases crop yields in the long run.


- Planting

After preparing the seedbed, seeds should be sown 1.5 to 2.0 inches deep to ensure proper water supply for good seed germination. Seeds need optimal moisture and temperature conditions to germinate, so always pay close attention to the soil temperature and moisture requirements for your seeds to germinate.


- Fertilization

Fertilization can be an important part of crop management. Before fertilizing any crop, the soil should be tested for available plant nutrients. Adding appropriate fertilizers, as determined by soil and/or plant analysis, can ensure the nutritional needs of grown crops.

Amount, type (bulk mix or hybrid), form (gas, dry solid, or liquid), timing, and method of application (broadcasting, deep application, drip application, foliar application, fertilization, fertilization, post-emergence application, row application, Strips and fertilization) variable rates), are determined by a variety of factors such as crop and fertilizer type, soil and weather conditions. Previous crops (legumes) and past fertilizer applications also affect crop nutrient requirements. Therefore, past fertilization should always be considered when determining crop requirements.


- Pest Management

Pest management is another important aspect of crop management. Insecticides can be a powerful tool in controlling most crop pests, mainly when used correctly according to the specific pest species. Additionally, integrated pest management (IPM) practices can provide growers with economical options that are safer and often better for people and natural resources. This method of IPM combines mechanical, biological and chemical (labeled pesticides) pest control methods. 

Repeated use of the same active ingredient on the same field, regardless of the product name, can lead to resistance in pests over time. Over time, this renders the chemical useless or even useless. Therefore, to avoid the development of resistance in pests, the use of the same insecticide should be limited and products of different chemical classes should be selected, or the mode of action should be changed. Ideally include some cultural practices (crop rotation, companion crops) and biological control (predators, parasitoids) to avoid insecticide resistance in pests. In general, diverse cropping systems tend to reduce the likelihood of widespread crop failure and pest pressure, while improving soil quality and crop yields. The crop should also be monitored regularly throughout the growing season for any specific needs such as nutrient deficiencies, outbreaks of pests and diseases, etc.


- Irrigation

Irrigation is another critical factor in crop production that affects final crop yield and quality, especially in our dryland regions. Overwatering results in loss of nutrients to groundwater and/or wasted water through surface runoff and soil erosion. These losses reduce the efficiency of fertilizers, especially nitrogen fertilizers. 

Before planting any crop, obtain information on water requirements and key growth stages of that crop, then determine irrigation system efficiency to schedule irrigation. If available, use irrigation systems that increase water efficiency, such as micro-sprinklers, low-elevation sprinklers, and drip irrigation (85-95% efficiency), or low- and high-pressure center pivots (75-90% efficiency). In general, flood irrigation systems are less efficient (20-50%) than other methods. Also, if possible, schedule irrigation for early morning or late afternoon to avoid water loss through evaporation.


- Harvesting

Ultimately, crop yield and quality depend on harvest management strategies. Conditions that are too wet or snowy can delay crop harvest. High moisture content delays mechanical harvesting of the crop/seed (laying or baling, direct bonding). Most grain/seed crops should be harvested when they reach harvest maturity. This time reduces yield loss due to breakage and lodging. Therefore, missing the right harvest time often results in severe yield losses.

The maturity stage of forage harvest is a key factor affecting forage quality and end use. If harvesting of forage is delayed in order to obtain maximum yield (such as alfalfa), the quality of the forage will deteriorate or be lower than the optimal quality required. The maximum yield of alfalfa forage was reached at full bloom; however, forage quality was highest before flowering.


- Post-Harvest Storage

Post-harvest storage conditions also affect the forage and grain quality of the crop. Harvested crops should be stored at the proper recommended moisture content for each crop to maximize quality, reduce pest infestation and avoid spoilage during storage. For example, grain stored at a moisture content of 14.5% is highly susceptible to quality loss, mold growth and insect infestation. Alfalfa forage should be baled at a moisture content of 18-20% for better quality.


- Additional Practice

Some other best practices to improve crop productivity and farm profitability are:

  • Increase crop diversity
  • Increase the number of beneficial pollinators
  • Use better weed control to improve harvest efficiency, crop quality and yield
  • Improve soil quality by following best soil management practices
  • Nutrients are added according to the availability of soil and crop needs
  • Manage labor and input costs
  • Track all expenses and profits
  • Keep good records to help manage a profitable farm business
  • Participate in creative marketing



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