Finally. The average soil temperature across the Corn Belt has reached 54 degrees Fahrenheit. For many farmers, corn and soybean planting can now begin with confidence.
If planting is the most important trip you make across the field, then your planter may arguably be your most important piece of equipment.
Here are five things you should be doing to ready the planter as field work begins:
1. Correct seed population to be planted.
2. Planting speed.
Use restraint when selecting your planting speed - refer to your planter’s owners manual for their recommended planting speed. Most equipment manufacturers will suggest that you do not plant faster than 5.5 mph. Faster speeds can cause planters to bounce, skip, double drop and seed depth to vary.
3. Seed spacing after planting.
Skips and doubles at planting can have a negative impact on yield. Remember that it is possible to plant the desired amount of seed, but have a poor plant stand due to poor seed spacing.
Today’s planting monitors are generally quite accurate, but you should be checking to see if they are working and calibrated properly. Digging in several locations can determine if the planter is operating correctly.
Here’s an example of how you can double check seed spacing:
Dig up 11 consecutive seeds in a row. Be careful not to move the seeds from the original spacing in the seed furrow. Measure the length in inches between the 11 seeds.
Let’s say the total length of 11 seeds was 66 inches. Divide the 66 inches by 10 (10 spaces between 11 seeds) = a 6.6 inch average spacing between seeds.
Assume the planter has 30 inch row spacing. 43,560 square feet in an acre divided by 2.5 feet (30 inches) = 17,424 feet of row = 1 acre.
17,424 feet x 12 inches = 209,088 inches of row in 1 acre. And 209,088 inches of row in 1 acre divided by 6.6 inches (average seed spacing you found earlier) = 31,680 seeds planted per acre.
4. Seed planting depth.
Corn should be planted at a minimum of 1.75 inches and a maximum of 3 inches to ensure that the first set of nodal roots will be at least three-quarters of an inch below the soil surface. Nodal roots are important to anchor the plant in the ground and to feed the plant. The nodal roots grow from the top of the corn seedlings mesocotyl, and for most corn is three-quarters of an inch long.
Soybeans should be planted at minimum of 1 inch and maximum of 2 inches. This will aid in the soybean cotyledon emergence and acquiring adequate moisture for growth.
4. Seed-to-soil contact.
Seed to soil contact is important for germination and getting plants off to a strong start. Closing wheels and press wheels of your planter can be adjusted to provide varying amounts of firmness and seed-to-soil contact.
When planting in wet soil, furrow openers can cause sidewall compaction that restricts root growth and often leaves the seed furrow open, exposing the seed. If the soil is too dry at planting, the seed will not germinate properly.
Alternatively, if soil is too loose, air can dry out the soil and make it difficult for roots to grow properly. If your seed to soil contact is too firm, it can cause seedlings to have difficulty in emergence and growth.
Take all the time you need to fine tune your equipment and make adjustments to get the best planting results and ensure your planter has been properly maintained - before you plant every field.