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Planting right on the money

01/31/2012 @ 12:49pm

The perfect picket-fence stand of corn is no longer a goal. Today, it's a must.

Skyrocketing input costs and record commodity prices have made the perfect stand a requirement for every farmer, warn university and industry engineers and agronomists.

Beware of the Big Three, they warn: no skips, no doubles, no triples. They all strangle bin-busting yields.

Farmers have taken to thrashing the Big Three into submission, by inspecting, repairing, and calibrating seed meters. The calibration stand, once an odd contraption in agriculture, is now a common tool found in any dealer shop and on many farm shop floors, as well.

Still, the Big Three remain a challenge, complicated by a fourth threat: depth placement. “Why is seed depth getting so much attention these days?” asks Kevin Kimberley, who makes it his business to coach farmers on fine-tuning their planters.

Escalating populations are crowding stands and accelerating competition. Genetics that deliver higher yields aren't accommodating to less-than-ideal stands. Combined, these factors dictate seed breakout of ground in military-like ranks.

“A corn plant that comes up three to five days later in the spring is a weed during the growing season,” Kimberley says.

The cost of uneven emergence is startling. “I'm seeing planters either in poor repair or misadjusted that are causing their owners to lose 9 to 20 bushels an acre due to uneven depth placement,” Kimberley says. “Weigh that loss against increasing costs for land, machinery, fertilizer, chemical and seed, and your margins take a huge hit.”

With potential per-bushel market prices in the $6-to-$7 range, you are being robbed of $60 to $130 per acre due to uneven emergence.

Successful Farming magazine draws upon Kimberley's 30 years of experience with seeders to offer you a preseason 12-point planter maintenance plan on the following pages.

Be sure to catch Kimberley's Planter Performance Short Course online at www.agriculture.com as well as on RFD-TV's The Machinery Show. 

Read the 12-point plan to pinpoint planting!

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Planter tips: Seeds