Temperatures are rising and planters are revving up across the country. Already, several of you may be starting to break ground on your 2017 season. Whether you're in the fields or getting close, IntelliFarms has compiled a list of "planting watch-outs and wisdoms" for this season and next.
- Don’t rely on the calendar or neighbors to make you feel confident. Once conditions are right you’re only wasting precious time by staying out of the field. But be certain the conditions are optimal. A yield-competition winner once shared with us that by planting when the ground is too cold, you can lose up to 6% of yield due to lag. (Do the math - that adds up to a lot of money!) General best practice is that the ground should be 55 degrees Fahrenheit for three consecutive days before firing up the planter. Be confident in the conditions by monitoring soil and weather conditions directly in the field to get a confident picture of the right time to plant. IntelliFarms' FieldDataManager weather station gives you the option to add soil probes for temperature and moisture management.
- Don't forget about the impact of compaction. Michigan State University Extension notes that sidewall compaction can limit root growth and reduce yields. One of the best ways to reduce compaction is staying out of the field when it’s too wet. The article sites several tests and suggestions to assess if the ground is too wet, including watching if the soil is building up on the rubber closing wheels. Proper soil moisture is a balancing act: too wet and compaction becomes an issue; too dry and seeds may not properly germinate or will emerge unevenly.
- Don't disregard safeguards for earlier planting. Planting early can provide excess time during planting and throughout the growing season. But bear in mind that proper nutrient management and in-furrow applications can help in minimizing the risks associated with early planting.
- Don't forget about fuel costs. Any time vehicles and machinery are in the field, fuel costs need to be kept in mind. This is especially true this year with tighter operating margins. Technologies are available to help farmers track and report location, fuel levels, and operating status of vehicles. This level of analytics can help owners make more informed and efficient vehicle use decisions.
- Narrowing your row spacing can allow for more profit per acre. As described in a Corn and Soybean Digest article, Illinois Farmer Marion Calmer saw a 4 bushel-per-acre increase average when comparing 30-inch rows to 15-inch rows over the span of 2008-2011. From 2003-2007, farm business management records saw the average corn grain yield with 19 to 25-inch rows was 0, 5, and 16% more than with 26 to 32-inch rows in different regions of Minnesota. Bear in mind some of the trade-offs of higher yields in narrower rows. Dr. Kapil Arora of the University of Iowa recently noted at an IntelliFarms SureTrack Workshop that generally genetics are geared toward growing in narrower spaces to increase headcount, but the protein content in the product itself is lower.
- Seedbed preparation is a significant determining factor in yield rates. Certain practices help to establish an environment conducive to even emergence while maintaining soil aeration and nutrient balance. According to a paper from South Dakota State University Extension, one simple way to get a head start on seedbed preparation is to make sure your planter is properly maintained. Several other tips are outlined in the this good paper.
- Selecting the highest yielding genetics with the proper defensive traits is sometimes all it takes to capture value. It seems simple, but making seed decisions based on trials done in your specific area and under the conditions you expect to encounter can often boost yields significantly. In a March 2017 Successful Farming article, Lamar Ratliff, who grew an award-winning 300-bushel-per-acre corn crop in 1955 advised that using good genetics has been key to his success. Tools like IntelliFarms’ YieldFax provide unbiased data that shows you seed trial data that can be filtered by location, soil type, certain genetic traits and more to help farmers identify optimal genetics for your yield goals. The tool is designed to only share publicly-available data in an easy-to-use format, and isn’t beholden to seed companies themselves.
- Be honest with yourself about the condition of your planter. This article in Successful Farming discusses the well-documented impact of worn and misadjusted planters on yield, stating that "variations from ideal spacing and depth slash yields from 7 to 25 bushels per acre." Kevin Kimberley, a planter and tillage performance consultant says that, "if there is one piece of equipment you should fawn over and baby, it's your planter" and offers 4 steps to inspect, maintain and prepare the planter for optimal yield-enhancing performance.
The contents of this blog post are an aggregate of other industry resources and experts. IntelliFarms does not claim to be expert consultants in planting practices. However, IntelliFarms is available to discuss how our tools including FieldDataManager and YieldFax can deliver short-term and long-term value in your seed selection, planting and field management decisions.