Resist Temptation to Take Shortcuts Just to Plant

Too early to throw 'caution to the wind.'

Published on: Apr 28, 2008

Corn Illustrated plots aren't in the ground yet in Edinburgh, Ind., but prospects for a more typical spring planting scenario improved steadily last week. Several days of fieldwork allowed farmers to get in the field. The farmers who host the plots completed fieldwork and prepared to plant. By the time you read this today, as long as the weather cooperates, their planter may be running. If so, Corn Illustrated plots will go in soon.

Already stories are surfacing of folks who had good intentions, but when the weatherman finally dropped the green flag, or what they perceived as the green flag and soils dry enough to plant, focused on getting the seed in the ground rather than staying with their game plan devised during the off-season. Depending on who the weather turns out and favors or inhibits pests and diseases, besides corn growth itself, their haste could cot them bushels and dollars, or they may slip by without a problem.

One year ago the Corn Illustrated stand inadvertently left off insecticide when planting non-Bt hybrids in the high-yield plot. The plot followed seed corn. So the staff, after realizing the error with the corn already in the ground, held their collective breath until it was time to check for possible rootworm feeding. Several root dugs at various points during the season turned up virtually no signs of rootworm damage. The only lodging came in plots slammed by stress without irrigation. But the crew knew they escaped by chance, not by good planning and execution.

While the Corn Illustrated team is committed to making sure that kind of 'haste-could-make-waste' incident doesn't happen in '08, apparently it already has for some. One report indicated a farmer who was heavily advised to use insecticide on corn in a field that was in corn last year, and bothered by an insect pest that can carry over from year-to-year, didn't realize that he wouldn't be able to apply insecticide with his current equipment set-up as he planted until he was ready to plant. So he planted the field anyway, not worrying about the insecticide.

Other 'haste-makes-waste' incidents include not taking time to check planter performance in the dirt, not just on the monitor. Last year the Corn Illustrated team found a chain problem after the first pass through the field. Calculations would later show that not checking seed placement and finding the problem could have cost several bushels per acre, based on Bob Nielsen's work on corn spacing and yield as corn specialist at Purdue University. The Nebraska native has long held that accurate spacing and even depth placement for even, uniform germination are two of the keys to realizing top yield potential, or avoiding yield loss.

At $5 to $6 per bushel corn, those kinds of mistakes will add up quickly this year. If there was ever a year to not hurry just to say you have corn planted, this might be the one!