Let corn plants see the light!

Even at the seedling stage, corn plants know what competition they’ll have from their neighbors, whether they’re weeds or other corn plants. It’s dubbed the “don’t fence me in” mantra for corn plants. Each plant needs adequate room to produce a factory capable of capturing light efficiently.

Shade created by vegetation canopy is characterized by a reduced rate of red light to far-red light. In full sun, plants “see” relatively equal amounts of red and far-red light.

However, red light is absorbed by vegetation, while far-red light is reflected. If plants are bombarded with reflected far-red light, they know they’re surrounded, and they take action to avoid shading, such as producing fewer branches, growing taller and flowering earlier.

With too few neighbors, corn plants produce multiple ears, add extra rows to ears and perhaps produce a couple of extra rows of kernels per ear, or grow longer. That explains why plants along fence rows typically have big ears. The same thing happens from big gaps within rows. It’s all about competition for sunlight and nutrients.

Key Points

• An internal mechanism lets young plants sense competition.

• If plants are crowded — or if they’re lonely — they make adjustments.

• Treat plants like your employees to get their best performance.

Equal opportunity

How do you make sure you’re providing equal opportunity to each corn plant? Unless you have irrigation, you have no control over sunshine, temperature or water availability.

At planting time you’re often rushing to beat weather fronts. So you may forget about accuracy, but lack of accuracy can hurt yields.

Think of corn plants as your employees. If you give them equal opportunities and treat them well, they’ll reward you with high yields.

Search for perfect spacing

It’s rare to find a field with perfect spacing in every row. Several fields on one farm featured near-perfect plant placement last year. Duane Hensley, crops manager for Jim Douglas, Shelbyville, planted those fields.

Hensley pays attention to detail in planter preparation. Read the article below, “How to get near-perfect stands,” for tips from Hensley.

Nanda writes from Indianapolis. Reach him at dave.nanda@

How to get near-perfect stands when you plant corn

Jim Douglas and Duane Hensley, Shelbyville, rely on conventional tillage. Hensley is the crops manager, responsible for getting the 16-row Kinze planter ready. It has finger pick-up units. No-till coulters are set at the same depth as True-V seed-opening discs.

Hensley follows maintenance suggestions from Kinze to the T. Here is a
15-point checklist he uses.

1. Clean and store meters. After the season, take meters apart and blow them out. Store them in Tupperware boxes in a dry place.

2. Planter cleanup. Wash and grease it before tucking it away in storage where it’s dry.

3. Extra care for blades. Spray diesel fuel on all blade surfaces to prevent rust.

4. Check bearings. One of the first tasks in the spring should be checking bearings for wear.

5. Measure planting discs. The seed-opening discs on this planter are 15 inches in diameter when new. Measure the remaining diameter each spring.

6. Replace discs when necessary. Once they only measure 14 to 14.5 inches, replace them.

7. Check gauge wheels. Gauge wheels should be properly aligned against the TruV seed-opening discs.

8. Inspect seed tubes. Pull each tube out. Remove all dirt from behind them.

9. Seed tube maintenance. Make sure seed tube guards are within specifications. Wash seed tubes out with a brush and water.

10. Inspect row cleaners. They’re meant for no-till, but they help with conventional tillage by throwing clods and small rocks out of the way. Adjust properly.

11. Check seed firmers. Inspect plastic firmers behind seed openers for wear. Replace if necessary.

12. Test meters. Hensley takes row meters to a Precision Planting dealer to run them on a planting meter stand. He takes seed he’s going to plant to get units calibrated. Hensley prefers medium rounds. Cost for inspection is around $30 per unit.

13. Check fertilizer openers. Fertilizer should be placed 2 inches to the side of the row and 2 inches deep. Check placement periodically. Hensley applies 10 gallons of 28% nitrogen at planting.

14. Inspect all tire pressures. Make sure transmission tires and drive tires are properly inflated. Tire inflation can affect driving speed. Hensley plants at 4.5 to 4.8 miles per hour.

15. Monitor planter regularly. Check thoroughly every two hours while planting.


COMPARE STANDS: Look at the evenly spaced stand (Top) from a field Duane Hensley planted. Compare it to a field planted by another farmer (Bottom).


PLANTER MAN: Making sure the planter is ready is one of Duane Hensley’s primary jobs.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.