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Test meters to minimize skips, multiples

You are in a hurry. You don't take time to run your corn units on a test stand. What affect will this have on population, stand and yield?

That's what Bondurant, Iowa, corn producer Darrell Geisler wanted to know. A believer of testing his meters each season, he wanted to know what the difference was if he didn't go through the complete process.

Before planting season, Geisler took 16 rows of corn meters to his neighbor Kevin Kimberley's shop. All new parts were installed in the 16 corn units. However, only eight of the units were run on the test stand. The other eight units were set according to the planter manual.

On May 5, Geisler planted 20 acres of the same hybrid, Novartis 59Q9, using his finger pickup planter. As another control measure, he used large round seeds for the entire sample. Geisler's local agronomist, Brian Kolln of Heartland Cooperative in central Iowa, checked the test plot's population. Seed population ranged from 32,000 to 37,000 plants per acre.

"While planting the test plot, the monitor was telling me that the meters were working pretty well. But that was not the case," Geisler said. "As we learned only after the corn emerged, we came to the conclusion that the kernels were passing the sensor so fast, it could not detect the extra kernels."

"What we've learned over the years was confirmed. If you don't run your units on a test stand, you will have a whole lot of skips, and even worse, multiples," Geisler said.

The test plot was harvested on Oct. 9. Heartland Cooperative tested the yields with a weigh wagon.

"Large rounds seem to help minimize skips and multiples," Geisler said. Overall yields were surprisingly close. Corn planted with tested metered units yielded 192 bushel per acre. Corn planted with new units that were not tested yielded 194 bushel per acre.

While yields were almost the same in the test plot, Geisler is a firm believer of testing his corn meters.

"The results were surprising. Corn planted with units that were not tested yielded two bushels better than the other sample," he said. "The only reason why that happened is because of the extra seed population."

"But don't let that sway you into not testing your units," he noted. The corn planted with nontested rows had 50 percent more lodging, which translated into slower harvest speeds. The corn units that were not tested also planted more seeds.

"Just 3,000 extra plants per acre cost $4.68. At two bushels more per acre in yield, I barely got my money back," he said.

Plant variability in the form of doubles, triples or even skipped seeds show up once young corn plants emerge. The tested meters had a sample with three plants spaced evenly at seven inches apart within a 14-inch space. Whereas the untested meters had four plants growing within 10 inches of each other. The untested meters had uneven spacing with two plants three inches apart and two plants practically on top of each other.

Plants that grow closer together within a row produce smaller ears, Geisler said. In his test plot, the untested meters had a corn sample resulting in fewer kernels. All four ears were 14 kernels around and ranged from 18 to 28 kernels long, for a total of 1,344 kernels of corn.

When corn plants grow at proper spacing, they produce larger ears. In the sample, the three stalks of tested metered corn were 16, 16 and 18 kernels around. All three ears were 32 kernels long, producing a total of 1,600 kernels.

The increased seed population and extra vegetation draws more nutrients from the soil. "Since you fertilize for X amount of yield, the extra plants cost you money," Geisler said.

"This plot also provided proof that ear size is affected when corn plants grow closer together," according to Geisler.

Download a PDF file of the Machinery Digest section from the April 2004 issue of Successful Farming

You are in a hurry. You don't take time to run your corn units on a test stand. What affect will this have on population, stand and yield?

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