Hello, and welcome to this year’s first edition of From the Field. I’m Dennis McGuire, an Agronomy Account Manager from Juda, reporting from Rock, Green, Winnebago, and Stephenson Counties.
The 2020 planting season has started off very well. After about 1” of rain that fell over Easter weekend, we saw a dusting of 4” of snow on the 17th. Even with this moisture, I have seen more dust behind tillage equipment then I saw in the entire 2019 planting season. Corn and soybean planters have been running over the last four days and planting conditions have been reported as good. There have been a ton of studies about planting in cold soils or before cold rain events, but after the 2019 planting season, I would rather talk about politics or COVID-19 than give any planting recommendations; as always, hindsight is 2020.
What I’d like to spend some time on is corn planting depth. Most research publications in the Midwest recommend 1.75” to 2.5” deep, and the primary reason is to achieve good seed-to-soil contact. This allows the seed to be placed where the soil moisture and temperature are more consistent. Uniform emergence requires each seed to uptake water at the same rate in a stable environment. Deeper planting also results in nodal and primary rooting to establish deeper in the soil profile, protecting seeds from herbicide, moisture, and temperature. This should lead to higher yields.
Last year’s new seeded alfalfa stands have made it through the winter the best I have seen in recent years. There are a few low-lying areas that died out due to water saturation and are therefore being reseeded with a grass mixture that should be more resistant to higher levels of water. The older stands are still struggling from the previous winters, and I think these stands will come out of production sooner than planned.
Best of luck this season.
Late planting challenges was the theme in last year’s planting season, so there’s a lot of discussion now about getting the seed planted as soon as possible. That raises the question of “When and how do we decide to start planting?” The answer is simple: we need to plant when the conditions are right and fit. To understand that, we need to review the basics of agronomy during the spring planting environment. For planting to be successful, we need to be running when the soil is dry enough to crumble and be pressed firmly around the seeding without “mudding” it in. Compaction is not our friend, so get it done correctly the first time.
Seed can sit in the soil for weeks, but we need to make sure that the first drink of water the seed takes is not too cold. Corn seed is very sensitive to the water and soil being below 50 degrees during the first 36 to 48 hours after planting. This will cause cells in the seed to rupture, causing damage to the seedling and eventually resulting in chilling injury and reduced yield. Monitor the soil temp and keep track of the weather forecast so you can gauge your decisions.
Check the planting depths. A good 2-inch-deep soil bed for corn and a 1 to 1.5-inch-deep bed on our soybeans will give us a good proper range to shoot for. Make sure the planter is level when running across the field—this will help make sure your depth placement is accurate. When getting the planter out, take the time to look over the machine to make sure it’s ready for the season. We don’t want worn-out attachments that can cause yield reductions, so go over the planter, check for worn-out pieces, and capture the easy bushels!
Let’s all have a safe season—we’re ready to play!