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Here is a guide for tackling those other planting season preparations.

Allison Lund

February 29, 2024

3 Min Read
Downed trees near farmland
BIGGEST OBSTACLE: The most obvious obstacle in the field during planting is downed trees and overhanging limbs. Take some time now to push those to the side so they won’t interfere later. Allison Lund

As planting season approaches, most of your attention is likely on the planter and other equipment. What about other areas that can affect planting where you may be underprepared?

Before diving in on machinery preparations, set aside a few days to check fields and make sure there are no obstacles that could spell trouble when you’re at your busiest.

Planting prep checklist

Scott Henderson, Franklin, Ind., has developed a routine for planting preparations that cuts some of the headaches out of the busy season. His checklist includes:

  • Clear fallen limbs and cut down overhanging limbs around field edges.

  • Inspect drainage and make small tile repairs.

  • Check for gullies and ruts made during harvest and correct with tillage.

If he is short on time, Henderson prioritizes cleaning up limbs. He says they become a pesky obstacle when planting if not managed.

“You’ve got to get downed trees picked up first,” he says. “You don’t want to drive around obstacles like that.”

He explains that he sets aside a few days to drive around his fields and clean up limbs, but sometimes he must repeat the process.

“A lot of times, we’ll have a wind event between now and planting, and we’ll have to go back and get more,” Henderson says. “It seems like the last three or four years, we’ve had big April winds or tornadoes that created a big mess for us.”

Other springtime field repairs

The two other checklist items Henderson swears by revolve around ensuring the fields are in good shape. After clearing limbs, he inspects his fields for drainage problems and determines if tile repairs are in order.

Henderson checks for drainage issues by scanning the fields for sinkholes or puddles. He says tile problems aren’t always addressed.

“A lot of people overlook it,” Henderson adds. “They just call an area a wet area, and they never try to figure out why. I see a lot of people plant around a wet area when it is a tile that is backed up. They keep doing it year after year.”

Some tile maintenance can be done on your own, such as clearing roots from outlets and patching small areas. Henderson says if you need to hire help to fix a tile, it probably won’t get done that year.

The last piece of advice he has for planting preparations is to check fields for gullies. These are typically caused by excess water from tile issues, or they can be ruts caused during harvest.

“If you have tile that’s not working, that ground lays wet,” Henderson says. “Once you get substantial rainfall on ground that’s already completely saturated, you get that runoff effect.”

Henderson finds that it’s efficient to check for gullies when he’s spreading fertilizer. Then, he marks the problem areas on GPS or on a map.

“We’ll try to address those with a disk or with a field cultivator before we try to plant it,” he adds.

Ultimately, Henderson recommends setting aside three or four days to complete these preparations, but he understands that planting comes first when good weather arrives.

“You can’t pass up good days to run in the field,” Henderson says. “That’s the hard part. When do you quit fixing things you need to fix? But if you don’t start field work, it’s going to cost you money.”

About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Allison Lund is a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. 

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