This year's dry weather will have implications for future crops long after drought conditions are over. Farmers planting wheat after a low-yielding corn crop will see the most immediate effects.
Because of severe water limitations, corn plants were not able to produce up to their genetic yield potential. Nitrogen that would have been taken up in the plant under normal growing conditions is left in the soil. Residual nitrogen will be lost through the winter months if the farmer doesn't plant anything on these fields this fall.
Much of the loss occurs when the soil begins to rehydrate. Under water-saturated conditions, soil microbes convert nitrate nitrogen into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, and nitrogen gas. Wheat can scavenge the remaining nitrogen and protect it from loss. For wheat producers, that means there is no reason to apply nitrogen this fall. If the soil doesn't become saturated during the winter, farmers can cut spring nitrogen by 20 to 30 pounds per acre.