Slow down to win the planting game
A slow — really slow — planting speed pays huge dividends in corn, say Steve and Scott O’Neill, two farmers and consultants from Olivia, Minn.
At the recent North Dakota CornVention — a corn conference hosted by the North Dakota Corn Growers Association — the O’Neill brothers talked about a strategy to get to 300-bushel-per-acre corn yields. A key component is planting slowly, about 3 to 4 mph.
Planter test stands may show that your planter can meter corn seed accurately at 5.5 or even 7 to 8 mph, but that doesn’t take into account planter bounce, Steve says.
The slower you plant, the less variation you see in planting depth and that translates to less variation in when corn emerges.
• Slowing down your planter may be the key to 300-bushel corn yields.
• The goal is to place seed at the same depth and same distance apart.
• The result will be that every plant will produce a full ear.
Their goal is to place every kernel at the same depth so every plant comes up at the same time. “We are shooting for 100% net effective plant stands,” Scott says.
That’s a term they have coined for the number of full ears harvested divided by targeted plant population. Each full ear of corn per 1,000 plants per acre equals about 6 bushels per acre, they figure.
The O’Neills see a wide variation in net effective stands in fields they check in the region. The seeding rate may be 30,000 plants per acre — which would equal 180 bushels per acre — but the net effective stand is sometimes only 60% to 70%.
Any corn plant that comes up later than its neighbor usually doesn’t produce a full ear, Scott says. Doubles don’t produce full ears or ears may be missing altogether. Skips reduce the number of ears per acre.
“The question you have to ask is: ‘Can you get all of your corn acres planted at 4 mph?’” Scott says. “If you can’t, buy another planter and slow down. You’ll be able to pay for it with the increase in yield.”
The O’Neills figure that each 1 mph decrease in planting speed increases yield by 20 bushels per acre.
Other pieces of their high-yield production strategy include:
• Using three different forms of fertilizer on corn — liquid starter, dry urea applied during the growing season and anhydrous ammonia applied in the fall or spring. They say using different forms helps ensure that the crop has enough N.
• Applying fungicide to protect yield potential.
• Only using vertical tillage.
• Harvesting early. They begin combining corn when corn is 28% moisture. They aim to finish by the time corn is 18% moisture.
To learn more, visit www.agventureccg.com.
This article published in the April, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.