When it comes to planting corn and beans, accuracy is not a luxury, it's a necessity -- with direct bottom line results. So, it's important to do a "post mortem" check now to evaluate your stands and, if there are skips, doubles, etc., try to determine the cause.
Jay Funke owns Del-Clay Farm Equipment near Edgewood, Iowa. He is passionate about helping growers do the best planting job possible. "As a planter dealer, we have to take time to show growers how to run the planter. We want to get them going at all costs to do the best job possible."
Funke believes seedbed preparation is a critical component to attaining a good stand. In his experience, vertical tillage works well. "You get less residue, more even seed spacing, and better emergence," he says. "We saw a lot of problems due to residue this year, especially in fields where a field cultivator was used," he adds.
The right kind of tillage is the one thing that help make your planter perform better, says Funke. "Farmers will spend $200,000 or more for a planter or combine, but they hate to spend $50,000 to $60,000 on a tillage tool. Tillage is kind of an after-thought."
To confirm what he believes, Funke spends a lot of time in corn fields this time of year evaluating stands and helping customers determine what may have caused problems. In fact, he "stars" in some videos for White Planters where he talks about the various causes of poor stands.
"Along with other White Planter dealers AGCO has partnered with Funke in the past because of his field and planter experience," says AGCO senior marketing specialist Gary Hamilton. "He takes time to do stand counts and planter evaluations for his customers. Funke provides feedback to keep his customers on the leading edge with planter performance that provides maximum yields and profits.
Funke likes to check fields just as corn is emerging and he's happy if he sees a field with the "picket fence" look. That means even seed spacing and even emergence. He randomly selects a row and makes a stand count. For 30-inch rows, he stretches the tape to 17 foot 6 inches. That equals one/one thousandth of an acre. "Multiply the number of plants counted in that distance by 1,000 to get plant population," he explains. "We are seeing a lot of populations around 27,000 plants per acre that should have been 34,000."
Next: Photo gallery >>
The farm equipment dealer notes not all problems can be blamed on the planter or planter adjustment. "With the wet, sticky conditions this year, for example, we are seeing some uneven spacing -- ranging from 4 to 8 inches. It could be the seed firmer dragged seeds a bit."
The next step
What if you do find skips, doubles, etc.? What then? Funke says you should first go back to the shed and check the planter to make sure it was working properly -- air pressure, down pressure, depth, etc. "Physically check the depth of the seed in the field to ascertain it's the depth you wanted."
Then, he says contact someone who can give you an impartial assessment such as an implement or seed dealer. "Look at the area – it could be residue management, not necessarily improper planter adjustment. If do not take the time to make an assessment, you won't make any changes and may have the same problems next year."
So, what are the common problems you might find when inspecting your fields?
Navigate through the gallery below to see photo examples.
Skips: A skip indicates a space in a row where seed should have been planted but the plant failed to grow. There can be many causes but the most likely is a problem with the planter – a seed failed to drop where the farmer calibrated a drop.
Next: Doubles >>
Doubles: When a double happens, two plants have to share water, sunlight and space rationed for one plant.
Next: Non uniform emergence >>
Non uniform emergence: When some plants grow at a faster rate than others, the tallest plants shade the shortest plants, hindering plant development. Even if the plants that emerge later do grow to maturity, they are more likely to have varying moisture content.
Next: Uneven spacing >>
Uneven spacing: Unevenly spaced plants cause imbalanced distribution of sun and water. Unevenly spaced seed also causes irregular distribution of shared resources. If seed moving through a planter has heavy contact with equipment, interruptions in movement can cause inefficiencies in spacing.
Inconsistent seed trench: Rough openings and inconsistent seed trenches affect plant spacing and depth and will ultimately result in inaccurate planting.