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Substituting a short-season, spring-planted crop for summer fallow when soil water is sufficient at planting might reduce soil degradation without significantly increasing the risk of crop failure. The objectives of this study were to determine the relationship of crop grain or forage yield to plant available soil water at planting. The study was conducted on silt loam soils in 2004 and 2005 at Sidney, NE, and Akron, CO. A range of soil water levels was established with supplemental irrigation before planting. Four crops [spring triticale (X Triticosecale rimpaui Wittm.) for forage, dry pea (Pisum sativum L.) for grain, proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) for grain, and foxtail millet (Setaria italica L. Beauv.) for forage] were no-till seeded into corn (Zea mays L.) residue in a split-plot design with four replications per location.
Triticale forage yield increased by 229 kg ha-1 for each centimeter of soil water available at planting in 2004. Foxtail millet forage yield and grain yield of proso millet increased by 399 kg ha-1 cm-1 and 148 kg ha-1 cm-1, respectively, at Akron in 2004. Spring triticale, foxtail millet, and proso millet did not respond to soil water at planting in 2005, when precipitation was above the long-term average. Dry pea did not demonstrate a consistent positive response to soil water availability at planting. Soil water at planting may be a useful indicator of potential yield for selected short-season spring-planted summer crops, particularly when crop production is limited by growing season precipitation.