Showing pages tagged "planting"

Dos and Don’ts to coping with this year’s weather

Dos and Don’ts to coping with this year’s weather:

Time to Change Plans?

By, Dan Steward

Here we are well into May with a great deal of spring fieldwork yet to be done. Since things rarely seem to go as planned in farming, here are a few pointers to consider as you dodge raindrops to get the crops in.

Dos and Don’ts to coping with this year’s weather:

  • Don’t be inflexible. Your cropping plans for the year are just that: plans. Plans can always be changed based on new information. Here is some new information: rain seems to keep coming and the date on the calendar keeps getting later and later. This past winter was very hard on alfalfa stands on marginal ground. This was likely due to the wet weather starting in the fall and assisted by the freezing and thawing leading to heaving March. Now is a good time to evaluate your stands.

  • Do consider delaying seeding fields until the summer or next year. With very few seedings planted, this is a very viable option to consider. If you have not already fall-killed or rutted up the hay fields you planned on putting to corn, you may want to leave them in hay and not seed any fields. The other option is to summer seed fields. Fall-killed wet, heavy ground fields are also candidates for seeding instead of corn. The advantage to picking this strategy is that you decrease your spring fieldwork by a significant amount and likely keep the same hay yield potential on your farm. The disadvantage? It will set your rotation schedule back another year.

  • Do plan on applying nitrogen on grass stands. Many farmers were able to get nitrogen out on their grass fields without rutting up the fields too badly. Many did not. Assuming it gets dry enough to get across the fields in the next week, it will still pay to spread nitrogen. It is likely that some yield has already been lost due to the shortage of N. However, grass puts on the majority of its yields as it approaches maturity and will still respond to N. Keep your planned N rates the same. If the nitrogen is not taken up on this cutting, it will be available for the second cutting. If fields get dry enough, plan on applying N up to approximately May 10th. (Maybe even later if you are at a high elevation on wetter soils.)

  • Don’t put in your haylage too wet. Since this is not the first wet spring in the northeast, we can learn from the past. A similar year in the mid-90’s, the grass grew like you would expect in a wet year, but when it came time to harvest, it was still wet and overcast and the cut hay just didn’t dry. By feel it seemed dry, but the koster tester didn’t lie; it was still wet. Those who ignored the tester put up a lot of wet, butyric haylage that year. Coupled with the low sugars due to lack of sunshine, and the high lignin due to the cold, wet weather, not much milk was made on that haylage. You are better off having high NDF forage that cows will eat than a bunk of unpalatable slop.

  • Don’t mud in your corn. The harm caused by plow or a tillage layer and/or sidewall compaction is irreparable. You are better off putting in corn 10 days late, then mudding it in.

  • Do try to trade in your long season grain hybrids for shorter season corn. It’s not too early to consider switching to shorter season hybrids for grain. The decision for silage or high moisture corn fields can probably wait until the end of May. If the seed is not already in the ground when you receive this newsletter, grain growers should probably back off by five days in hybrid maturity, and another five if planting is delayed until early June. Also, consider switching from corn to soybeans. If your silage or high moisture corn planting is delayed until early June, consider reducing the maturity. As previous years’ data shows, there is usually no yield hit to staying with long-season hybrids right up until June, but often harvest has to be delayed by 2-3 weeks, or grain moisture will be much higher.

  • Don’t miss this great opportunity to get your equipment ready. In other words, try to find something positive out this frustrating spring.

It has been frustrating, but we have to do the best with the hand we are dealt. In 2011, patience was aptly rewarded. That year had an exceedingly wet May allowing only 24% of the corn to be planted in NY by the 22nd and 43% by the 29th. But then conditions turned exceedingly dry from mid-June through July before the drought was relieved in August. That year, the long-season corn planted in late May or early June yielded by far the best because it wasn’t mudded in. As a bonus, it didn’t silk until the first week of August when the drought was relieved. The earlier planted corn silked in the middle of the drought and had pollination issues.

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Planter Leveling

Recently I got a call from a farmer who wanted help in getting his planter leveled in the shop.

I visited the farm and proceeded to go over how to level the planter in the shop with a particular tractor.The real answer really is the shop is not a  good place to do that job. You really need to be in the field with the planter in the ground planting. It is best to be level or slightly higher in front.  The main frame is what you should look at first. The best way to eyeball it by running along side or riding in a four wheeler. If it was level last year it might not be this year due tractor tire wear or wear on the bushings in the hitch. If the planter is low in front it may push residue in front or not close the slot well in back .If for some reason one has to switch tractors this has to be looked at again. No two tractors are the same.Sometimes a very mellow field will allow a tractor to settle more and more adjustments have to be made.


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Are you and your corn planter ready for great yields?

Corn planters operated out of adjustment and at too high of a speed can lower yields up to 20 bushels of grain or 4 tons of silage per acre

The tire pressure also has a profound effect. Why does this happen? Uniform seed placement and correct depth are very important. Poor seed depth and spacing will reduce yields and waste great genetics, good soil fertility and effective herbicides. If the planter drops doubles or triple seeds it causes competition for sunlight, nutrition and water. This is called crowding and can result to barren plants or runty ears. This lowers grain yields and corn silage quality and yields. A planter set to drop 30,000 seeds per acre can easily do it and still do a lousy job. For example if 5,000 seeds are in the form of doubles and triples or come up more than 48 hours after the majority of seeds, due to poor depth control, they are essentially weeds!

Take these steps in order to prepare your planter for picket fence stands:

  1. Get out the operator’s manual and find the correct tire pressure for your planter.
  2. Finger pickup and vacuum units spit out seeds as fast as a submachine gun spits out bullets. Minor wear can make them perform imperfectly. Your operator’s manual tells you how to care for these planter components.
  3. Backer plates, brushes, springs, fingers and belts all need checking every year. To save time checking parts, you can always take them to your dealer. There are also some very good independent companies that do a great job of maintenance on planter components at a reasonable price. Case IH planters have been known to wear grooves in there seed disc, if they are gone replace them. If the singulator springs have lost their springiness change the group of springs. Seed brushes should not be worn unevenly or they will not perform properly, in which they should be replaced.
  4. Disc openers should be at least 14½ inches in diameter (Case IH openers are slightly smaller but they should not wear at more than a 1/2 inch.). When sliding business cards in at the 4 o’clock position, they should touch at least 1½-2 ½ inches apart. Make the adjustment on the arm. THIS WILL PREVENT a W shaped seed furrow. In Case IH planters check the firming point, do not hesitate to replace it. This insures a good seed furrow.
  5. Gauge wheels need to be adjusted so that they slightly rub the disc openers. Ragged seed walls cause uneven seed depth resulting in uneven emergence.
  6. Check the seed tube, as well as mud scrapers, for wear.
  7. Shake the entire seed unit to see the amount of wear on the bushings. Worn bushings will cause emergence problems because of an inability to keep the unit level. This will cause jerking in the drive which results in an uneven seed drop.
  8. Closing wheels, no matter what type, should be centered on the seed trench. Ensure that closing wheels have good bearings, are unbent, and apply even pressure. If you have spiked closing wheels the tips should be no closer than 2 3/8 – 2 ½ inches apart. They should not penetrate the soil beyond the Unit. The closing wheels have the beveled side in and the flat side out. These 13-inch wheels were originally residue trash wheels designed to go in front of the planter, therefore, you put the one marked L on the right side and the one marked R on the left side. If you have one spiked wheel, it will be a 15-inch wheel, and the rubber or cast wheel should be 1 7/8 inches from the spiked wheel. There are usually two holes drilled in the closing wheel bracket, It is better to put the rubber wheel in the rear position which tends to make it act as a depth gauge wheel. There are many closing wheel variations on the market and if installed according to directions, they do the job well, but some will work better in particular situations.
  9. Check the chains and drives to ensure that they are taunt and running smoothly. If the drive system is all badly worn electric motors should be considered as an alternative.
    The down pressure springs should be sound. You should keep spares available. Hydraulic and air down pressure if used need careful checking. (They work well)
  10. Measure the distances between units. They should be 30 inches. If they are not, they have slid or may be twisted. This can reap havoc in a lot of areas such as: depth, singulation, row width, and chain lineup.

The following practices in the field will help ensure picket fence stands:

  1. Make sure the planter frame is level when it is in the ground. Non-level planters can lead to several unexpected problems such as:
    •The fertilizer coulter bearings may be so close to the soil that they catch and pile residue.
    • Rigid residue managers may dig trenches or canals that force the depth gauge wheels to ride high and put the seed in to shallow.
    • The rear closing wheels are high and do not close the seed slot, this will hinder emergence. Many times this will occur when the hitch is too low or the tractor tires are worn down from last year, sometimes mellowness of the field will affect this.
  2. Parallel arms should be close to level when the planter is in the ground in order to achieve maximum benefit from down-pressure springs. Be sure to check the bushings on arms and replace if they are sloppy.
  3. Maintain the frame height between 20 and 22 inches from the ground.
  4. If the frame and units are not level, it is better to have them a little higher in front rather than a little lower. Never the opposite! If the units are low in front, the rear packer wheels may not perform well and emergence will be hindered. A planter that was level last year may be different this year due to worn tractor tires.
  5. A no-till coulter or center zone-till coulter should be one-half inch shallower than planting depth. Some farmers have taken the no-till coulter off and feel they get better stands because of less bounce.
  6. To prevent fertilizer burn, the fertilizer coulter should be around 4 inches deep and at least 2 inches away from the seed trench. Check this often! Every season we see a few people that have had one get bent or slide over and burn one row in a field or two. This makes for a very unhappy farmer. There is always going to be exceptions to this rule. If the total of N and K is more than 90# /acre the fertilizer should be moved further from the seed furrow.
  7. Rigid residue managers should only turn about 70% of the time. They should not move dirt or make miniature canals. This can cause the depth gauge wheels to ride too high, in which the seed will be planted too shallow. Floating row cleaners with depth band wheels can alleviate this problem. The depth bands may have to come off in extremely heavy residue. There is a feeling that if you run trash wheels a little wider to get the trash beyond the gauge wheels, you will get better depth control. I agree with this statement.
  8. Seed depth should be checked with every soil condition change. Down pressure springs and depth gauge wheels may need changing as conditions change.
  9. Seed depth should be no shallower than 1¾ inches. When checking depth, pat the little point of dirt down in the center of the row before you measure. It’s better to be 2 inches deep than too shallow. Check last year’s corn stubble, if it has a lot of brace roots above ground, you might have planted too shallow in 2016. Planting early and too deep on wet heavy soils can result in surface crusting or rotting seed.
  10. Remember to use the recommended seed flow lubricant whether you use finger planters or vacuum planters. Closing wheels should be centered exactly on the row.
  11. If you have spiked closing wheels, the gap between the spikes should be between 2 and 2½ inches. Use very little pressure on spiked closing wheels.
  12. It is recommended to plant large seeds in the early part of the planting season and small ones later.
  13. Planting speed should be between 4½ and 5½ miles per hour. You will pay a penalty for high speed planting. In a trial by Ken Ferrie, a field agronomist for Farm Journal magazine, a planter running at 5 mph was compared to its operation at 7 mph, at the higher speed; yield was 11 bushels per acre less than at the lower speed. The extra speed caused havoc with the meter, uneven distribution in the row and caused depth control problems. For example with a 12-row planter traveling at 7 mph, you can plant 200 acres in a 10-hour day compared to 145 acres with a planter running at 5 mph. At 7 mph, it will take 5.2 days to plant 1,000 acres vs. 7.1 days at 5 miles an hour. Finishing two days early will cost you 11,000 bushels at harvest, or $44,000 at $4.00 per bushel of corn or $66,000 at $6.00 per bushel of corn. The fine for speeding is: $2,315 per hour at $4.00 per bushel or $3,472 per hour at $6.00 per bushel. One of the most important things you can do when planting corn is this: Get off the tractor often. There is no technology available that checks seed depth, the distance fertilizer is from the seed slot, and the level of the planter. The operator must be the most alert person on the farm. If he or she is tired, lazy or just doesn’t know the importance of each item, your yield can suffer.


Probably what is the most important item is be ready. Corn planted when the soil is ready will almost always thrive. Getting the ball rolling in February or March means

You will be ready at the end of April and if you get a good weather spell you will be ready.

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