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Spring planting tips for the coming weeks

Mark Watson
Panhandle No-Till Educator

Spring is in the air and another farm season is off and running. Our peas were planted the last week of March and early April directly into our dryland corn stalks and are emerging. Our wheat is fertilized and looks to be in good shape after a long winter. It’s time to look at the planters and get them in good shape for the spring planting of corn and edible beans.

Paul Jasa, University of Nebraska Extension Engineer has a good article in last week’s UNL Cropwatch publication. The article is titled Planting Tips for Successful No-till. You can access this article by going to http://www.cropwatch.unl.edu. In the article Paul makes some recommendations and suggestions for improving the performance of your planter in no-till crop production.

Some of the ideas Paul suggests also apply to grain drills for successful no till. I know several producers around the Panhandle had trouble last year getting the wheat seed planted to the desired depth with the dry summer and fall we had last year. The soil was very dry and hard at wheat seeding and made penetration of the soil difficult.

Paul writes in his planter article about the need for heavy down pressure springs and additional weight on planters especially if the soil is hard and dry so you can get the seed placed at the proper depth.

We have added down pressure springs on our planters which give us about 400 lbs. of down pressure and 500 lbs. of down pressure springs on our grain drill. We have also added additional weight with water tanks mounted to the planters and drill which allow us to vary the additional weight as needed. If you have more weight and down pressure than you need to penetrate the soil you can cause sidewall compaction with your planter. Special attention must be given so you have the down pressure you need to cut the residue and penetrate the soil, but not have excessive weight which causes the sidewall compaction.

Paul also recommends that the double-disk openers are sharp and adjusted properly. Make sure the openers have approximately 2 inches of blade contact so they work together to cut the residue. Paul also recommends replacing the seed tube protectors when replacing the disks. The protectors work to hold the disks apart to reduce blade flexing and act as a scraper to keep the disks clean. If hairpinning is a problem increase the planting depth to improve the residue cutting angle of the disks. Planters are designed to plant at depths of 2-3 inches and perform best at this depth.

Another trick to improving planter performance is to plant 4-6 inches off to the side of the old row when planting into last year’s corn stalks. This will place the seed above the compacted middle of the old row where tire traffic from the previous year may have caused some compaction.

Paul also recommends keeping planter speed at no more than 5 miles per hour and I’ve always felt 4 to 4.5 is fast enough. Excessive speed may cause too much bounce in the planter units resulting in inconsistent stands.

Seed firmers or rebounders help to place the seed at a uniform depth. If you have heard Paul speak at no-till meetings he always stresses even depth of planting to help insure even emergence. Plants emerging sporadically lead to uneven competition among plants and reduces yields.

Uneven residue is often a problem if you had problems at harvest spreading the residue. Trash whippers or residue movers on the planter may be necessary if you don’t have an even distribution of residue. Uneven residue will lead to uneven emergence so use the trash whippers or residue movers as needed.

The last step in planting is to close the seed-vee. Pay close attention that your planter is closing the seed-vee consistently. In wet soils the use of a spiked closing wheel may do a better job of fracturing the sidewall and closing the seed-vee.


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