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Deep Corn Planting May Pay on Droughty Soils

Gil Gullickson Updated: 05/22/2014 @ 9:11am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

The standard corn planting depth recommendation for the Corn Belt is 1.5 to 2 inches. During droughty springs or in droughty fields or droughty parts of fields, though, you may be shortchanging seeds.

At least that’s what a 2012 BASF trial found. In the trial, planting depths were plotted against final stands. They were:

  • 1 inch: 26,000 plants per acre
  • 1.5 inches: 30,000 plants per acre
  • 2 inches: 32,0000 plants per acre
  • 3 inches: 35,000 plants per acre

When soils are dry, planting as deep as 3 inches can be more favorable than 2 inches. “When we checked those fields, every seed (planted at 3 inches) was in moisture,” says A.J. Woodyard, BASF technical service representative.

In recent years, the opposite has been true in many cases. Cold soils hit by prolific precipitation have been wetter than farmers would like. Still, there are regions, fields, and areas of fields where droughty soils at planting may occur.

That’s why it’s a good idea to check planting depth frequently, says Woodyard. Checking depth several times a day can reveal dry areas in fields where a deeper planting depth may be warranted.

Planting seeds into moisture can play a role in promoting good rooting,  too. In a dry year like 2012, planting deeper into dry soils helped early rooting patterns.  

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