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Closing in on the Seed

February 7, 2011
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete
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One planter was outfitted with 10 closing wheel attachments, two rows at a time, to observe performance in the Farm Journal Test Plots in central Illinois.   

The final contact that your planter makes with the seed every spring can hold the secret to taking yields to the next level.

"Furrow management plays a bigger role in uniform emergence than most farmers realize," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "The closing assembly’s job is to make sure every seed has uniform contact with the soil and to firm the soil enough to keep the seed environment from drying out," he explains.

Ferrie encourages farmers to build the foundation for higher yields with picket-fence stands and photocopy ears. He leads the Farm Journal Test Plots crew to the field with new equipment designed to tackle the production challenges of today.

The decision of which style of closing wheel to outfit your planter with is driven by tillage system, soil texture, field conditions and weather.

Manufacturers have responded to today’s production practices with a spectrum of closing assembly designs.

"There are two trends that are increasing the challenges when selecting the correct closing wheel: variability within a field and variability from one field to the next," Ferrie says.

Particularly for those working in no-till and strip-till fields, when it comes to the planting pass, most farmers have to deal with balancing the optimum planting date and optimum planting conditions.

In tough no-till conditions, it can be easier to smear the sidewall and not have good seed-to-soil contact. If there is an open slot or sidewall smearing, it will be harder to get water into the seed for germination.

If you do tillage before the planter, it’s easier to get even soil moisture across the field. In no-till fields, it’s more challenging to find that balance. Even if 80% of a field is fit to plant, it’s the other 20% that is still too wet where it can be difficult to keep the furrow closed.

"If you’ve no-tilled corn for long, you know that the bushels lost can be dramatic when you’re unable to close the slot," Ferrie says. "Ten years ago, a farmer was much more likely to use one method to manage soils across all acres. Today, it’s common to use no-till, strip-till and conventional tillage depending on soil conditions."

New-style closing assemblies have been added to the available rubber and solid cast-iron options. To evaluate these options in a demonstration plot this past spring, we outfitted one planter with 10 different closing wheel styles. They included: Great Plains Spider Wheel; Kinze solid cast iron; Kinze rubber; Martin Dimple; Martin Spader; S.I. Distributing Close-N-Till; S.I. Distributing Finger Till; Yetter Close-Till; Yetter 6200 Firming Wheel; and Yetter Spiked Wheel with Scraper.

The field used for our demonstration has been in continuous no-till corn-soybean rotation. Planting conditions were fair, with 80% of the field fit to plant and 20% marginal.

From the bottom up. The process of properly closing the seed trench includes closing the furrow from the bottom up. When planting in marginal conditions, firming from the bottom up can be hard to achieve.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-February 2011

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