Planter Planning Begins at Harvest

By Jerry Hartsock | Cutting Edge Consulting and Research Services

Preparing your planter for a productive season starts at harvest.

Every decision made from harvest on should take into consideration what to do to the corn planter to maximize its performance.

The basis behind that statement comes from the fact that the start of corn is everything. Things that lead up to and then happen the day of corn planting determine the majority of yield in every growing season. Soil conditions at planting time and weather conditions 24 to 48 hours after dropping seeds can have significant imprint on final yield. The following eight key steps form the road to much higher yields.

  • Totally prepare your planter (get it as close to new as you can)
  • Make sure the seedbed is level, warm, firm and residue-free
  • Eliminate smeared sidewalls
  • Plant 2¼” to 2½” deep (depending on tillage)
  • Set the final depth (after settling) to 2” to 2¼”
  • Travel at 3.8 to 4.2 mph (4.5 mph max.) to manage unit bounce and promote uniform emergence
  • Deploy uniform spacing
  • Choose the best warm and cold germs and low abnormals
Spring tillage can have a significant impact on planting accuracy and uniform emergence.

Spring tillage can have significant impact on planting accuracy and uniform emergence. The surface of the soil has nothing to do with raising a crop, yet many tillage decisions are based on what the surface looks like (i.e., dark and gardenlike). What determines yield are conditions below the surface, in particular the area around the seed and below. Planters prefer a firm, level, warm and residue-free seedbed/trench. Seeds next to residue tend to emerge uneven and have partial ears at harvest. Seed planted at a final depth—after settling or rains—shallower than 1¾” tends to emerge later, as well as have partial ears at harvest. The following is a list of what to shoot for from your planter or planting process: 

  • Single seed pickup
  • Single seed drop
  • Uniform depth (2¼” to 2½” planting depth)
  • Uniform spacing in row
  • Perfect conditions at planting time

Factors That Affect Performance

  • Believe that all the extra attention to details matters
  • Equipment performance, maintenance and options are available to enhance performance
  • Speed kills yield
  • The ideal seedbed is warm, firm, level, residue-free

Goals

  • More plants out of the ground and more uniformity
  • High net effective plant stand (N.E.P.S.) equals high plant count and high ear count at harvest
  • Higher percentage of producing plants
  • Higher yields and greater consistency and standability

The various tillage tool options that exist perform radically different tasks. Field cultivators, soil finishers and a disc tend to loosen/fluff up the profile down to 4”. They also incorporate residue where seeds are placed. The chance for inconsistent depth of seed placement is greater with these tools. In addition, more settling tends to occur after planting and subsequent rains. True vertical tillage tools such as the Great Plains Turbo-Till®, Turbo Max®, Krause Excelerator® and the SalFord do not fluff or loosen the soil as much, leaving the profile firm for planting. Also the vertical tillage tools mentioned above do not incorporate residue below 1” or 1½”. No-till and strip-till programs also leave the soil very firm and residue-free for planting when planters are equipped with floating row cleaners.

What to expect from various planting scenarios