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Seek better corn stands

Maybe Rich Schlipf wouldn’t feel comfortable flying a 747 jet, but he’s got almost as many tools to control and fine-tune planting as a pilot does to fly his plane. He can adjust seeding rate on the go, but he also knows when he’s planting too fast, when his units have the right down pressure on them, and when his seed is singulated properly.

Key Points

Sophisticated monitors track singulation and spacing.

More farmers are paying attention to down pressure.

Manual control of row cleaners helps in heavy residue.


Schlipf, Milford, is a dealer for Precision Planting products, but he’s also a farmer who believes in putting the right seed in the right place, and giving each and every seed the best chance possible to grow. And if something goes awry, thanks to sensors and monitors he knows about it as fast as a pilot knows his airplane has a problem — well, almost.

Clean start

One of the secrets to achieving good stands is planting the seed into a clean seedbed, Schlipf says. Since he no-tills, that means using row cleaners to remove residue off the row.

Last year his row cleaners were equipped with Clean Sweep controls. That allows him to manually adjust the running height or depth of the row cleaners from the cab. An air cylinder on each row unit does the work. You also need an air tank and compressor.

Dawn Systems introduced a system to allow adjustment of row cleaners on the go at last year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. More farmers are finding that as conditions vary, it’s important to adjust the row cleaners so they’re doing the job, removing the residue ahead of the disk openers, but also so they’re not digging into the soil.

Schlipf says it’s especially helpful in no-till and in corn after corn. Dealing with heavy corn residue can be a chore. Having the ability to fine-tune the depth at which the residue wheels operate lets you fine-tune your planting operation, he says.

Constant monitoring

More companies are beginning to offer monitors that do more than just tell you if each unit is operating, and approximate planting rate per acre. Schlipf relies on his 20/20 SeedSense monitor to help him know what kind of job he’s doing. Since it displays spacing and how well seed is singulated, it’s useful in diagnosing what’s going on behind the tractor.

“We get questions about how fast to plant, and one way to determine it is by watching your monitor,” he says. “I plant 4.6 to 6 miles per hour, depending upon the field. The more bounce you get on the units, the more likely that consistent spacing will slip.

“What I tell farmers who have monitors with this capability is to start slow and increase speed. When accuracy of placement begins to drop off, then you know you’re planting about as fast as you can without sacrificing accuracy.”

Maintain efficiency

Mike and Pat Shuter, Frankton, count on doing an efficient job of planting. It’s the one time when you don’t get a second chance to do the same job right on the same day. So they want to get it right the first time.

Also believers in variable rates, like Schlipf, they typically vary seed drop from 30,000 to 38,000 seeds per acre. Thanks to Tru-Count air clutches, they can shut off pairs of two or four rows at a time when necessary.

To ensure they’re getting seed where they want it, they go with “reduced inner diameter” gauge wheels. Old no-tillers often refer to them as Case IH gauge wheels, because Case was the company that developed them. Keeton seed firmers help cover the seed and keep it where it belongs in the furrow. Then, Martin spiked closing wheels make sure they’re getting enough loose dirt to cover the seed. The Shuters strip till, making strips and deep fertilizing in one pass in the fall, and planting onto the strips in the spring.

The Shuters rely on Precision Planting’s AirForce System to adjust down pressure on rows as necessary. More farmers are realizing that the pressure on row units greatly impacts whether or not a seed will be positioned properly in the soil consistently throughout the field.

Down pressure was one of the factors tested in the Indiana Prairie Farmer/
Precision Planting test plot program last summer. Since the planter wasn’t equipped with a unit to adjust down pressure on the go, three preset levels were compared — low, medium and high.

Jeff Phillips, Tippecanoe County Extension educator who aided with the plots, says that the middle setting on down pressure on the John Deere planter produced the most even spacing. However, there were no significant yield differences.

Planting flats vs. rounds means adjusting vacuum pressure in air-delivery planters, Shuter notes. They’ve found that in their system they can run 6 to 6.5 mph. They also rely on a 20/20 SeedSense monitor to judge how the planter is doing. If singulation becomes more erratic, they can back off on the speed. “It [the monitor] will tell you if you’re planting too fast,” Shuter says.

Apply fertilizer accurately, too

The yellow, sidesaddle tanks on Rich Schlipf’s tractor and the cart he pulls behind it allow him to also apply 28% N fertilizer as he plants corn. His typical rate is 25 gallons per acre. He also adds about 5 gallons of Thiosul per acre to add sulfur.

“Our agronomists say we need sulfur today,” Schlipf adds. “We apply it as we’re planting.”

Other experts are recognizing that sulfur can be limiting in some situations today. While not ready to call for it to be added routinely, many recommend paying attention to sulfur.

According to the Purdue University Corn and Soybean Pocket Guide, 2011 edition, sulfur deficiency results in light green, stunted, spindly plants. Inteveinal yellowing and leaf striping are possible Other micronutrient deficiencies, namely manganese and zinc, can produce striping on leaves, too.

Mike Shuter has also applied zinc, sulfur and manganese with his strip-till blends of phosphorus and potassium for four years. He also believes the micronutrients are paying off in increased yield.


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Extra punch: Applying starter fertilizer with sulfur as he plants helps get seeds off to a fast start, Rich Schlipf says.

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Clean, drop, position and cover: Mike Shuter says the Shuters’ planter is designed to drop seeds accurately and cover them evenly to give the crop an edge on emergence.

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Heart and soul: This 20/20 SeedSense monitor displays spacing so accurately that you can know instantly if something is causing erratic placement.

This article published in the March, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.