Are You Ready to Pour a Glass of Champagne?
Get ready, get on your mark, start planting!
Published on: Apr 12, 2010
Maybe you think it's early, and perhaps it is, but we've heard of a farmer in northern Iowa who routinely plants in mid-April and hauls in consistent yields every year, often over 200 bushels per acre. You will have to decide when is the right day to head to the field in your area, assuming the soil is dry enough.
So what does champagne have to do with planting corn? Barry Fisher, state agronomist in Indiana for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has told many a crowd of farmers that one of the best no-tillers he knows says that he should be able to set a champagne glass on each of his planter box lids, fill it, and drive all the way to the other side of the field without tipping the glass, or even spilling a drop. So if it's time to plant, it ought to be time to pour in the champagne and test to see if the planter is ready.
That's the real point, of course. Whether you're heading out this week or waiting for three weeks, just because you think it's too early, shouldn't your planter be ready to roll by now? Fisher says that if you inspect it properly and adjust it properly, it ought to handle that glass of champagne, even in no-till conditions.
Part of the secret is having the right downpressure on both row cleaners and double-disc openers. Precision Planting, Tremont, Illinois, actually now makes units for both situations that automatically adjust down pressure using air. The Air Force system to control downpressure on units was available last year. This season they've added small cylinders that actually mount onto Martin row cleaners and help control the depth of the row cleaners.
If you're running a no-till coulter, which isn't always necessary anymore, Fisher believes, make sure it's not running deeper than the double-disk openers. If it is, then the seed could fall into the slot it creates and some kernels could wind up deeper than others. The secret to no-till success, at least as far as getting good germination, is getting seed placed at the right depth, he says. A one-half inch difference in placement in soils that rapidly get cooler as you move below the surface can make a huge difference in how well the stand emerges.
There is one other secret to keeping the champagne in the glass, Fisher says. That's not driving too fast. His favorite motto for the no-till field is that 'Speed Kills.' If units are bouncing up and down because you're driving too fast, the champagne would spill. And if the champagne would spill, then kernels aren't getting placed at consistent depths, he affirms. And if kernels aren't getting paced at consistent depths, then those seedlings that emerge later will act like weeds. Instead of adding to yield, they will likely detract from it. That's because they will likely not produce an ear, yet suck away nutrients and water from the plants that emerged on time.
So don't be drinking the champagne just yet. Save it for the first round in the field. You need to make sure every row is 'tip proof' and 'spill proof' if you want those uniform, picket-fence stands that everyone raves about.