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Is There a Magic Number When it Comes to Seed Depth?

Is There a Magic Number When it Comes to Seed Depth?
Choosing proper seed depth for corn can sometimes feel like gambling.

According to Mike Deutsch, a seed representative for AgriGold, some farmers have a "secret" to planting depth.

"I once had a farmer tell me his secret to choosing planting depth: 'If it's going to rain, I like to plant a good two inches deep.  If it has just rained I figure two inches is a good depth. And if we aren't expecting any rain in the forecast, I shoot for a planting depth of two inches,'" Deutsch said.

Though two inches may not always be the magic number, the old saying "seed won't come up in the bag" is true in the end. But will it even come up if it's too deep or if it's too shallow?  It's an age-old question that farmers ask each other and seed reps every single year.

Checking seed depth: Earlier this spring, Scott Beck and Jason Webster checked seed depth behind the concept multi-hybrid planter being tested by Beck's Seed and Kinze Manufacturing.

Soil moisture plays a key role when considering seed depth. Rapid germination is the intent, and for this to happen the environment should be not too wet yet not too dry.

Related: How Deep Do You Plant Corn?

While the general recommendation for corn planting depth is 1.5-2.5 inches, Deutsch says he likes to shoot for two inches.

"Shallow planting into soil near the surface has the potential for greater temperature and moisture fluctuation which can lead to root development problems," Deutsch says. "There is a case for planting deeper than 2.5 inches if you are planting later in the season once soil temps are up in the 70s. In dry conditions, you could plant as deep as 3-3.5 inches in coarse soils, trying to get to good soil moisture."

R.L. Nielsen, Purdue University Agronomy Department, says corn has the capability of emerging from deeper depths, even deeper than what today's planters can place seed. That's because of the "innate ability of the seedling mesocotyl to elongate during the emergence process," he says.

Related: DuPont Shares Results of Shallow Corn Planting Study

Surface crusting is a big issue and concern on some soils in Indiana.  Nielsen believes that surface crusting plays more of a role in timing than in depth of the seed. The development of the crust relative to the timing of the emergence process is far harder to control and plan than depth.

Best recommendations are to continue doing what most of you do – examine soil conditions in each field, check seed depth periodically and watch the 10-day forecast. Bottom line, there is no secret formula for getting the perfect emergence we all look for.

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