Tedious planter prep yields additional bushels
When temperatures start to warm and the grass perks up, the itch to get in the field is hard to resist. Coffee shop talk centers around who’s going to hit the field first. Enthusiasm is good, but don’t let it shortchange planter prep.
"A common mistake is not following the plan and allowing the anticipation to get in the field be the priority," says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. "This results in lack of preparation and potential yield loss."
Pull the planter out of storage and spend several days giving your planter a comprehensive check-up. Tedious work sets the foundation for accurate seed placement, depth control and consistent seed-to-soil contact. Your planter readiness should dictate your go-time just as much as weather and soil conditions.
Once your planter is ready to roll, it’s important to evaluate in-field performance using a combination of technology and ground truthing. In-cab monitors provide immediate information on seed spacing, seed bed conditions and operating speed, which allows for quick adjustments. But don’t solely rely on technology to determine how your planter is running, cautions Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist.
"Stop the tractor and planter and take the time to verify accurate seed depth, seed spacing and overall performance," Bauer says. "Make sure all of your monitors and in-field findings match up.
"Every 1,000 ears per acre is worth 5 bu. to 7 bu.," Bauer says. "It’s pretty common to pick up several thousand ears per acre as a result of good setup, and that can result in significant additional revenue."
To see this yield boost through to the combine, it starts with minding the details you have control over at planting.
You might not be the talk of the coffee shop if you’re not the first farmer out of the gate, but the extra days of prep time will give your peers reason to talk come harvest.
Top 6 Tips for Accurate Seed Placement
1. Seed Size Matters
Accurate seed placement starts long before you pull out the planter from storage and dust it off for another season. Order seed early to receive the highest quality seed, in the size best suited for optimal results with your planter. To determine the appropriate seed size, look back at past records and in-field experiences. Order the most consistent seed size across all hybrids. When setting meters, be sure to verify performance using a test stand operated by a trusted adjuster using a sample of your seed. If the planter is new to you, consult with your machinery dealer, seed supplier or meter adjuster for proper seed size recommendations.
2. Check Meter Performance
Once the seed is delivered and spring is in the air, it’s time to check meters. Seed size adjustments might differ based on the style of meter. New vacuum and air meters have flat plates, no seed cells and less sensitivity to seed shapes. Finger meters have seed cells and are more sensitive to seed shapes. Both meters will plant accurately if they are calibrated correctly and in good mechanical condition. For best results, take a sample of seed to the adjuster to fill the meter. To achieve spatial uniformity and proper singulation, set the meter where the seed is planting at the highest accuracy. Use the metering stand each year because seed size might vary.
3.Consider Operating Speed
Operating speed plays an important role when setting meters. Meter performance is tied to revolutions per minute (rpm), which are related to speed and seed population. Make sure to communicate planting speed with the meter adjuster. Operating speed is dictated by the meter, seed size and seed bed conditions. The smoother the ride, the easier it is to keep the planter from bouncing. When a row unit begins to bounce, meter performance and depth are affected. Adequate down force is essential to get a true "V" trench. The correct down force puts the seed in the bottom of the seed trench and closes the trench from the bottom up.
4. Check Seed Tubes
Remove seed tubes and make sure they aren’t broken or worn. Pay close attention to the bottom edges of the seed tube. When this area is worn, the edges of the plastic turn in causing the seed to hit and ricochet resulting in poor seed spacing. Check the top of the tube for bent or cracked plastic that keeps the discharge chute of the seed meter from properly fitting into the seed tube. If you replace the seed tube, replace the guard at the same time. The goal is to have little to no vibration in the seed tubes. Common causes of vibration include the hydraulic motor, worn out bushings in parallel arms, worn bearings on the drive system, fast operating speed and an unlevel planter.
5. Determine Optimum Planting Depth
Evaluate temperature, soil conditions and moisture levels in the field and set the planter accordingly. The standard depth range for corn to achieve favorable conditions is 1.5" to 2", though this might vary from field to field. This depth range is considered standard because of the consistent moisture in the soil. When planting occurs at the proper depth, the microenvironment around the seed should show adequate moisture levels to start the germination process. Closing wheels play a big role in ensuring good seed-to-soil contact. To evaluate planting depth, scrape back soil to find the seed. Lay a ruler or flat item level across the furrow then measure from the item down to the seed.
6. Duplicate Success
Uniform emergence has the largest impact on yield. To achieve uniform germination, all seeds need to germinate within 24 to 48 hours of one another. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn agronomist says that uneven emergence can reduce corn yields by 9% to 22%. His research shows plant space variability can reduce corn yields from 2% to 4%. To achieve picket-fence stands and photocopy plants, every plant should have an equal amount of soil to operate in and capture the same amount of sunlight. When plants have to compete for sunlight and water, it’s possible the plant’s ear size and length will shrink.