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Planting Woes - The SequelPlanting Woes - The Sequel

Here is another tale of my absent-mindedness in the field.

Curt Arens

May 12, 2011

4 Min Read

Here is another tale of my absent-mindedness in the field.

If you thought last week’s story about my boneheaded planting time endeavors was bad, wait until you read this week’s story.

A few years ago, as I was checking seed placement of my first-planted corn a day or so after planting, I made a heartbreaking discovery. Two rows of corn, side by side, were left unplanted across a 60-acre field.

Over the entire field, two rows were not only failing to sprout, but were not planted at all. There was no seed to be found.

At first, I thought it was a conspiracy of pocket gophers. Maybe a legion of gophers traveled up and down a single round across the field, skipped six rows, and then repeated their work, taking up every single seed in those rows and never straying to other rows. Hey, it could happen.

Then I thought about aliens, who perhaps were hungry for seed corn, or who were taking up the seed for study on other planets. Hey, it’s not that far-fetched.

But over time I came to the terrible realization that it was my fault. Yes, I had failed somewhere, but I wasn’t sure what had happened.

It was puzzling. I had planted the field in good shape, without incident. The monitor told me that everything was planting fine. Of course, in my hurried state, I did recall that when I jumped off the tractor every few rounds to check seed spacing and to see if the planter was operating properly, I noticed that in two rows, I couldn’t dig up any seed from the ground. I could find seed in other rows, but those two rows seemed to be missing. I usually utilize an old saw blade to scrape soil away from the row and evenly check seed placement.

But the monitor told me that it was planting and sometimes I can’t find the seed, but it is actually in the soil. I was in a hurry to get the field finished because of threatening rain clouds coming up fast from the west, so I trusted my monitor to be correct.

Air was coming from the planting tubes. Nothing seemed to be plugged. It all looked OK, until I realized that it was not.

Opening up my planting drum, I realized that a tiny bit of paper from the corn seed bag had lodged in two of the holes, not plugging them completely, but clogging enough that seed couldn’t reach its final destination. It took all of five minutes to fix.

Still, I was puzzled, because I could not figure out why my monitor hadn’t tipped me off to the problem. After an hour of checking connections on the monitor, I noticed the row setting switch that could be set to monitor four, six or eight rows. Somehow, I had bumped my switch to the six row setting. It wasn’t monitoring rows seven and eight at all.

Unbelievable! A simple, but costly combination of problems and my inability to properly diagnose it ahead of time caused some headaches in the corn stand on that field. Now I had to come up with an idea that would solve this issue in the field.

Fortunately, my old four row 400 IH Cyclo planter was sitting idly in my shed, waiting to plant sweet corn. I removed the outer rows from the planter, filled the box and drove up and down the two-row skips across the field, taking particular care to stay on the correct rows.

Believe it or not, this worked. Although the two late-planted rows were a bit behind all season long, at harvest time there was no visible difference and the yield on that field was as good as ever.

But my suggestion would be, don't try this at home. It takes a professional to mess up this badly. And, don’t whine about your planting problems until you’ve encountered something really troublesome. I’m sure I could win some bone-headed farming award for this one.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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