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Make up for lost fieldwork time

Jeff Caldwell 05/03/2011 @ 3:05pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

So, your usual planting window may be closed. Things haven't gone as planned. That doesn't mean your crop's going to end up dead on arrival. Just change your priorities a little and you can still make a good crop, specialists say.

First off, if you have tillage to do, you may need to make a few difficult decisions soon. One specialist advises re-examining your tillage needs again before you re-enter the field when things dry out. And, don't be afraid to change your plans at the last minute.

"The major question this season is, 'How should my intended tillage program change in response to the current realities of saturated soils within fields, the weather forecast and the calendar?'" says Purdue University Extension agronomist Tony Vyn. "Overall, the most essential aspects of tillage management for corn planting in Indiana and surrounding states over the next few weeks will be to exercise caution, control weeds and enhance seedbed quality where possible.

"It is essential to leave the soil condition with the maximum opportunity for unimpeded corn root development," Vyn adds. "Potential corn yields can be compromised more by poor soil structure following poor tillage choices from now on than they have been by lost planting days thus far."

And now, your planting timeframe will obviously be different than normal. You'll likely need to really get after it when you can get back into the field. And, just based on the last few years, farmers will be able to catch up fairly quickly once conditions let the planters roll.

"We can put a lot of corn in the ground quickly! Last year, based on data from the Iowa Crops and Weather Reports, Iowans planted from 37,000 acres per suitable day to nearly 1.4 million acres. In 2008 and 2009, over 1.2 million acres were planted per day suitable for field work during the best weeks," says Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomist Roger Elmore. "Farmers are well-equipped to do it in record time, if the weather cooperates. We just need 10 excellent days!"

As you're putting in that crop, try to resist the urge to plant too shallow. University of Nebraska Extension engineer Paul Jasa says it's easy to assume planting corn plants shallower will help speed up emergence. That may be the case, he says, but it can also hamper plant development that you can't see.

"The corn roots may not develop properly when planting too shallow and the stands may not grow uniformly," Jasa says. "When planting shallower than 2 inches, the angled closing wheels on many planters pack the soil below the seed and don’t properly close the seed-vee.

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