This winter some of us had the opportunity to go listen to Ken Ferrie at CropSmart. Ken urged us to get back to the basics and make sure we get out of the cab this spring and look at what we are doing with our planters. With the weather starting to clear up its time to think about making sure we have the final tune-ups on our planters completed, and get ready for fine-tuning on the fly in the field. Here are a few tips from Ken that will help us with a more successful crop in 2019.
Get a Good Start
Prior to planting it’s a good idea to go out and dig at the field you’re planning on planting. While you are out there digging and checking the soil take a look at about 1.5” – 2.5” at soil moisture and temperature so you know what you are dealing with. If the soil is warm and fit enough to plant it is important to make sure you are not starting to plant prior to a cold front. Planting before cold weather or rain can increase the risk of chilling injury and lower emergence rates.
Fine Tuning Depth and Down Pressure
Once you decide the field is ready to plant its important to get out of the tractor and take a look at what your planter is doing. Even with todays highly technical equipment like smart firmers, down pressure, and seed singulation monitors you still cannot beat ground truthing yourself. Go out and take a look to ensure each seed is properly spaced, at a uniform depth, and planted into sufficient moisture. The first key to a record corn yield is uniform emergence and we can influence how likely this is to happen. Finally take a look at your closing wheels and down pressure. Ken said he would rather err on the side of too much down pressure than not enough; but avoid so much down pressure that it causes smearing and compaction.
To Coulter or Not to Coulter
Coulters and row cleaners are always a hot topic when talking about what needs to be on or what doesn’t need to be on your planter. More isn’t always a good thing. When should I use a coulter, when shouldn’t I use a coulter and what coulter should I use? There are a few options out there, wavy coulters, fluted coulters, and in some cases coulters combined with row cleaners. In lower residue no-till situations wavy coulters do an excellent job providing a little tillage in front of the openers to reduce smearing. Row cleaners can also be used in front of a wavy coulter to help move trash out of the coulter’s way. However, using a wavy coulter on tilled ground has little benefits and actually can increase the risk of hair pinning in the seed trench. Fluted coulters are an excellent option for higher residue fields. These coulters can cut up and size residue in front of the openers to help reduce the trash the row unit has to deal with. Again, fluted coulters in a conventional system have little benefit. Finally, row cleaners, its best to have floating row cleaners so they don’t dig in in the hills and do nothing in the low spots. Row cleaners are an excellent option to clear away trash for the openers and the teeth can even provide a little bit of tillage to the soil to help close the seed trench and again reduce smearing by the openers.
If there is just one thing to take away – it is to get out of that tractor and ground truth what you are doing