Spring may seem like a simple season for farmers to someone not in the business. With $500 per acre or more invested in planting the crop and one chance to get it right, it's anything but simple. Here are some questions that deserve your attention, and some good planning before the calendar moves deeper into March.
Pick the date- If you had your choice, what date would you start planting in your area? Would you base it on past performance on your farm, or on data from other company or university plots in the area? Dave Nanda, director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., says early planting for corn is important. Over time earlier planted fields tend to yield more. However, that doesn't mean that in any given season, there won't be an exception.
Pick the hybrid- Some hybrids are suited to more fertile soils, while others can withstand tighter, clay soils and still perform reasonably well. The real trick is in fields with the same types of soils in about equal proportions in both fields. People have talked about planters that could switch hybrids on the go, but there's not yet one commercially available.
Pick the seeding rate- The number of ears per acre play a big part in determining final yield. That's why some people are bumping 32,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre on planting rate. Remember that every kernel won't germinate, even if conditions are ideal. Know what final stand you can accept, and plan from there to determine seeding rate.
Test and tweak the planter- If you haven't already had your planter units tested on meter stands, either finger pick-up or vacuum, there's still time to get it done. Most people claim it pays, even if you think your planter is in relatively good shape. Such tests and inspections may uncover a worn brush or a broken belt or other problem that would cause issues on one or more rows.
Form back-up plans- Now what do you do when the weather doesn't cooperate? What if the field you want to start in gets rain and other fields don't. What's the best way to alternate your plans? When you get those first good working days, do you spend them tilling and applying anhydrous ammonia, or do you concentrate on planting instead? Does it matter where the calendar is when the weather breaks as to which decision you make? These are all questions that may be easier to answer if you've played out scenarios in your head before the season gets here.