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Planting Season is All About Accuracy and Opportunity

Feb 26, 2020

Whenever I visit with a grower for the first time, I like to learn as much as I can about their operation. Although you might expect that I gather knowledge from the typical in-depth questions, often times the small talk yields just as much information.
 
For example, I have heard time and time again the importance that many farmers place on their planters. Many even say that it is the most important piece of equipment they own. That’s because they know all too well that regardless of how they manage their crops during the course of the growing season,they’ll never be able to make up for a bad start.
 
When it comes to planting, I have two primary recommendations. One is fairly obvious and one is not, but both are extremely important to your success not just this year but in the future as well.
 
SLOW DOWN AND ENSURE ACCURACY

As a person who spends time checking behind planters after emergence, you would be surprised how often I encounter poor stands that were caused by inaccurate or incorrect seed placement. Many times we can trace this back to an equipment issue or planting conditions that are often preventable had we just taken the time to stop and check to make sure everything was functioning correctly.
 
Is your planter calibrated correctly? Are the closing wheels closing properly? Are you planting at your desired depth? Are you achieving adequate seed-to-soil contact? All of these are important yet simple questions that you need to ask yourself throughout the planting process, because things can change quickly due to field conditions and are often overlooked due to being in a hurry.
 
It is equally important to practice caution and not push too hard early in the season. Every year we see more farmers pressing to get their crop planted earlier and earlier to help free up time for other tasks. The problem is that this can cause more harm than good if you’re not careful. Soil compaction is just one of the things that becomes a risk when conditions are too wet, and the resulting impact on soil uniformity can prevent you from achieving a consistent planting depth and even stand emergence.
 
CONSIDER PLANTING ON-FARM TRIALS & CAPTURE QUALITY DATA

The planting season provides a once-a-year opportunity to help determine what works best on your acres. While information gleaned from regional Answer Plot® data and university trials can help you select hybrids and varieties, the best information you can get will ultimately come directly from your farm. Whether you are interested in planting new varieties, trying new crop protection products or implementing new crop management practices, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determining what will work best on your farm. Since every operation is different, the best thing you can do is run trials and put in checks to identify what provides the best results for your operation.

When performing trials, start by selecting the right location for your plot. Avoid areas of variability in favor of more uniform acres to get a good apples-to-apples comparison. If you’re planting a new hybrid or variety in 2020, run simple and easy test plots to determine how they perform in your fields. When planting corn, split your planter to plant half of the rows with one hybrid and half of another. If planting soybeans, divide a field and do half of one variety and half of another (this is due to the way that soybeans are typically harvested). 

If you are trying a new product like a seed treatment or bio stimulant, put in a check so you can see if it provides the return on investment that you are hoping for. If you are intrigued by new research that supports changing your populations or fertility levels, run some replicated side-by-side test strips to see how your crop responds. Then at the end of the season, make sure you harvest each hybrid, variety or check separately to accurately compare yields.
 
Performing test plots or not, capturing quality data will go a long way in helping you learn what works best on your farm. Whether you are using the same equipment as last year or breaking in a new planter this spring, make sure your monitor is set up correctly and you are running the most current version of your planting software. Ensure that all your functions that are required are unlocked and all your boundaries are accurate before you venture into your fields. 
 
Does all of this take additional time to accomplish? Absolutely, but as is often the case, your results are only as good as the effort you put into it. Observing differences in these plots throughout the season and comparing the results is well worth the additional time and energy. It will help you build out a solid plan so you can replicate your success and improve on your management practices. Having confidence in the way you plant and manage your crops is the key to your success.

For customized advice that is specific to your acres, schedule a visit with your local GreenPoint AG specialist. They will help you build a plan that aligns with your goals year-in and year-out. 

 
This article was written by Ben White, Ag Technology Specialist for the Missouri Bootheel. You can reach him at ben.white@greenpointag.com.
 
 


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