As the calendar clicks by with only very few planting days so far, none in some parts of Indiana, one thing is certain. When it even gets close to field-ready to work, many people will be working. It's likely to approach that point that Gary Steinhardt calls the 'cost of doing business.'
The Purdue University agronomist did pioneering work on soil compaction in the '80's. Yet he now says there are times when the crop must go in, or when it must come out in the fall. The soil compaction created in the process becomes the cost of doing business, he explains.
Dave Nanda, Bird Hybrids, Tiffin, Ohio, sees that same rock vs. hard place decision coming for farmers. Which is the rock and which is the hard place could be debatable. Yield trends say yield begins to drop if corn is not planted by at least May 10. Yet soil compaction can hinder growth, especially if it turns hot and dry soon after planting, or even later during pollination and ear development.
"Many will likely work soils wet and create soil compaction once they get a break," Nanda says. "On the other hand, the crop must go in."
If it's in by mid-May, basically this week, there's still the potential for a good crop, Nanda believes. That year's crop turned out very well, even though a large majority of it was planted in late May, and some as late as mid-June. Much of the latest –planted corn was in Indiana, and came about since June 7 flooding and torrential rains wiped out many fields, especially in central and southern Indiana.
Growers may be able to take certain steps to help minimize the risk of damage from soil compaction. Those steps include running tillage equipment at shallow depths, if at all. That way, you'll be less likely to pull up very wet, moist soil.
Others include making sure your planter units are set so that sidewall compaction doesn't become a serious issue. With too much pressure over the seed trench after the seed drops in, creating sidewall compaction is a possibility. It's a problem that could be worse in no-till. Check for sidewall compaction carefully before you plant entire fields.
No-tilling can save time and help get the crop planted in a hurry once conditions become favorable. Just be sure not to cut corners, agronomists say.