Agronomy Talk

2021 Planting Reminders

Product Placement, Population and Planting Depth

Published on Monday, April 26, 2021

Many farmers in the area have begun planting, and others are getting ready to start. As you head to the field, I wanted to share a few reminders with you to help you fine-tune your planting operations to ensure the best chance of success with your 2021 corn and soybean crops.

Hybrid/Variety Placement

It is important to make sure that you plant corn hybrids and soybean varieties in fields that they are suited for to maximize your yield potential. During the rush of planting season, it’s easy to want to grab the bags at the front of the shed or not take the time to switch hybrids as you change fields. While several of our Beck’s products are very versatile and will be successful in nearly any situation, some products have placement requirements that are more specific and will reward you at harvest if you place them correctly at planting.

Most likely, you already have a plan in place for which corn hybrids and soybean varieties you are going to plant in each field. If you need a reminder on hybrid/variety characteristics, use the following links to access documents that contain information on placement of Beck’s products that are commonly planted in Ohio:

Planting Population

Picking the right population can be very important to helping your crop establish a good stand and achieve its top yield potential. In corn, the ideal population can vary based on productivity of the soil and hybrid. Even if you don’t have a planter with variable-rate capabilities, you can still change populations based on productivity of the field and the hybrid you are planting. The corn placement sheet linked above gives the recommendations that the Beck’s product team makes on ideal population ranges for each hybrid in our lineup.

The ideal soybean population is less dependent on variety and more dependent on row spacing, planter type, soil productivity, planting date, and potential for stand establishment challenges. The following graph shows our PFR results for soybean populations:

You will notice that 100,000 seeds per acre provided the best return-on-investment over 6 years of testing at multiple locations. However, it is only a small number of acres where I would actually recommend planting that low. Here are some thoughts to consider when using these results:

  • Most of our PFR testing was done in high-yielding environments with little risk of stand establishment issues. In fields with risk of drought stress or saturated soils, or in fields with soils that have a high potential to crust, you’ll want to plant higher rates.
  • All of this testing was in early-planted soybeans. After May 15, I recommend increasing your planting populations by 10,000 seeds per week to account for the shorter growing season and less vegetative growth potential.
  • This testing was done with a planter in 15-inch rows. If you are planting with a drill, you’ll want to increase your population by at least 20,000 to account for less consistency in spacing and depth.

The take-home message is that low populations work when planted early, in 15-inch rows planted with a planter, and on high productive soils. Any time those factors start to change, you’ll need to increase your population.

Planting Depth

Planting depth is one of the easiest factors to overlook on the day of planting. Here are our PFR results on planting depth in corn:

Most of us know that two inches is the ideal depth to plant corn. However, pay attention to the yield penalty if depth is off by just a half-inch. It only takes a few minutes to get out of the tractor and check planting depth in each field. Also, if you feel the need to adjust the depth setting on your planter, be sure to check your down pressure setting as well. Many times, if the planter is not planting deep enough, the issue might actually be that the down-pressure setting is too light instead of the depth setting being too shallow. As farmers, we’re always looking for ways to get a few extra bushels: using in-furrow fertilizer, applying foliar feeds, spoon-feeding nitrogen, etc. But don’t forget that the basics such as planting depth can get us a nice yield bump as well, if we just invest a little time to ensure it is correct.

In soybeans, PFR has shown that 1.5 inches is the ideal planting depth. This might be a bit deeper than most of us are used to planting. In our observations at the PFR sites, we have noticed more consistent temperatures and moistures when the soybeans are planted deeper, and we also noticed that many of a soybean’s nodules form at the same depth at which the beans were planted. Soil is cooler throughout the summer at lower depths, and if the nodules are cooler, they will tend to be more productive, providing more nitrogen to the plant.

I hope that you found this information to be helpful as you head to the field to plant this year. If you have any questions about these or any other factors related to planting, feel free to contact your Beck’s dealer, seed advisor, or myself. Have a safe and successful planting season!

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Author: Mike Hannewald

Categories: Agronomy

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