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Challenges, Yield Threats of Catch-Up Planting

A survey of 700 corn farmers conducted by Dragotec USA shows that more than 48% say delayed planting is their biggest concern among all yield-limiting factors. In addition, excessive moisture and soil compaction are among the top-10 variables, both of which are part of the equation this spring.

Leading up to this month when most of the Corn Belt’s crop is planted, April has been anything but friendly to the majority of corn farmers. That has meant a slow start to planting. While farmers have the equipment to plant a lot of corn fairly quickly today, the first few steps out of the starting gate could come back to haunt farmers later on in the season in the form of yield loss potential. Playing catch-up during planting can lead to compaction and other field conditions that may lead to crop variability manifested later in the season as yield loss, warns Fenton, Iowa, farmer and Dragotec USA president Dennis Bollig.

“Soil compaction can absolutely blow up in a wet spring. Even with a good tillage program, your tractor is causing compaction, and a field cultivator is not going to overcome that,” Bollig explains. “Compaction can cause a lot of variability within a field and ultimately lead to a challenging harvest, and wet springs like this year can cause a lot of issues with compaction.” 

Bumping up planting speeds can sometimes lead to more compaction, regardless of the moisture and overall condition of the soil during planting. “The faster you drive with your planter, the more downpressure you need to keep the row unit on the ground,” Bollig warns.

“Today’s high-tech planters can control downpressure better, so they’re trying not to exert any more than what is needed to get the seed in the ground at the proper depth. Differences in downpressure can cause variability, and that can create microenvironments in your fields. Though planters can adjust to a lot of that variability, it still affects yield in the long-run.”


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