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Sponsored: The Importance of Planting Depth

Farmers are at the start of another challenging year with low commodity prices and shrinking margins. To succeed in a down market, we have to set ourselves up for success from the start. The best way to do that is to utilize all your tools and resources to their fullest potential. That means making sure your planter is ready for the field before it’s time to plant. But it also means planning for accurate plant spacing, seeding depth, and proper seed-to-soil contact as well.

Planting your corn at the correct depth is critical for maximizing your crop’s yield potential. The question that many farmers are faced with, however, is what exactly is the proper seeding depth? Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team has been working hard to answer exactly that.

Over the last few years, the team at Beck’s has planted corn at various depths across multiple locations to determine how planting depth impacts plant population, emergence, and yield. While more data is needed before a concrete “ideal depth” can be determined, the main takeaway from this research was more about the consequences of planting too shallow than about finding the ideal planting depth.

To achieve consistent, high yields, it is critical to create the optimal micro-environment at planting. One major consequences of planting too shallow is an increased risk of late season standability issues. And because the top inch of soil fluctuates drastically in both temperature and moisture, planting your corn seed at too shallow of a depth can result in inconsistent water imbibition and reduced, uneven emergence. Planting too shallow can also negatively affect nodal root development, creating standability issues later in the season.


So what depth should you be planting at? Beck’s multi-year, multi-location study has shown that planting around 2 in. is ideal for corn. On an individual site basis however, this idea depth ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 in. This proves that every soil and environment is different and what works for one farmer may not be right for another. What IS important to note is that the plots planted at the shallowest depths consistently provided some of the lowest yields in this study.


If there is one recommendation that can be made from all this data, it’s to test different planting depths on your own farm. While this research suggests that we can generally plant a little deeper than we used to, Beck’s PFR encourages you to find your ideal depth on your own farm. Challenge the conventions that you think may or may not work and make sure to frequently check your seeding depth while planting. A good practice is at least two to three times per field.

Beck’s PFR will continue testing planting depths in corn throughout 2017 in hopes to make confident recommendations for farmers throughout the Midwest.

To see the regional results of this study, click on the links below. Individual results may vary.

Beck’s PFR is the largest source of unbiased, cutting-edge agronomic information in the industry. More than 110 different studies were conducted in 2016, comparing over 150 products across multiple locations to learn how different management practices and new technologies perform in field environments. In evaluating agronomic practices and input products, not comparing seed products, Beck’s PFR aims to help farmers maximize their input dollars and increase their bottom line. To view more studies from the 2016 PFR book, click here .

Practical Farm Research (PFR)® is a registered trademark of Beck’s Superior Hybrids Inc.

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