Here are five lessons Mike Starkey learned from 2014 that he will carry forward into 2015. He was named a Master Farmer in 2014, and farms near Brownsburg.
1. If in doubt, plant deeper: "If you're deciding how deep to plant, I learned it's better to err on the side of planting deeper instead of planting shallower," he says.
Starkey conventionally tilled a field where tile was installed the year before. He applied 80 pounds of N and received a heavy rain. One hybrid planted on the shallow side was impacted more than others. He suffered enough loss that he spotted in some corn where that hybrid was planted. The loss was due to root burn injury.
2. Kill annual ryegrasss before it gets too big: "We waited in one field where crimson clover was in the mix to let the clover grow and produce nitrogen," he recalls. "We didn't burn it down until after we planted, and waiting that long on annual ryegrass really burnt me. You need to burn annual ryegrass down before you plant."
3. Apply some nitrogen at planting with soybeans instead of foliar applications later: Starkey says he hasn't seen consistent results from foliar applications of nitrogen on soybeans. He intends to apply a small amount at planting to help get beans off to a good start.
4. Believe in controlled traffic: Keeping wheel traffic off as much of the field as possible is important, Starkey believes. He's purchased a sprayer with a 125 foot-wide boom so that he can better line up his fields into controlled traffic patterns for all operations, including spraying.
5. "We've got to get cover crops seeded earlier – there's just no two ways about it," Starkey says. As it was, due to wet weather late, he was left with some cover crop seed in bags in his shed. He wanted it on the land instead.
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