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Start with the planter, then look elsewhere for cause.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

June 14, 2012

2 Min Read

Good farmers and crop agronomists sometimes have to become crop sleuths. It's the only way to figure out what went wrong in a particular situation. Otherwise, there's no way to improve and make sure that whatever went wrong doesn't go wrong again next time out.

The Precision Planting LLC and Indiana Prairie Farmer plots at Throckmorton planted in mid-May this year make a perfect example. Some of the plots didn't emerge well because they were –planted at a shallow, one- inch depth on purpose, to gauge the effect of planting shallow.


However, even in a bulk area in the field next to the plot, certain rows didn't emerge as well as others. The rows that didn't emerge were beginning to emerge, putting plants at the VE stage when other plants were already at V4 or V5. Those bigger plants were about ready for the growing point to move above ground.

Pete Illingsworth, of the Throckmorton Farm crew, first checked his planter after he saw the trend in a bulk, commercial –planting instead of just in research plots. He went row by row. Each row was set at the same depth. Nothing appeared to be affecting any of the rows when operating in the field. The planter got his stamp of approval. So there had to be another cause.

The soil was still very dry, with only about 0.3 inches of rain since planting. With more rain, the pattern might not have been as obvious. But without rain, it definitely was obvious for shallow planted corn.

Dry soil alone didn't explain why some rows were up good and others weren't, when all rows of the planter were calibrated to plant at the same depth.

The clue came when Illingsworth walked into a nearby soybean field, a commercial field, planted with the farm's John Deere drill, at about the same time the corn was planted. The same pattern seemed to exist there, with every couple of rows across the field showing thinner stands.

That's when Illingworth remembered the field cultivator had a bent shank or two. Maybe they were going deeper and drying out soil, or not going in at all. Or maybe the ground had been worked the same direction so many times that the field cultivator left it uneven across the pass, and this effect was showing up in a perfect storm- dry soil conditions. He believes the best bet is to work on the field cultivator. Ideally, he would like to replace it with a newer model. But on research farms that's not always possible, just like on commercial farms.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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