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Achieve Even Emergence With These Planting Tips

Ryan Hough with John Deere answers questions on how farmers can achieve even emergence. 

In a time of tight money, how much is uniform emergence worth? What is the payback and what does it cost to achieve it?
Based on a University of Minnesota study, uniform emergence can have a 5% to 9% impact on yield. For example, with a 200-bushel-per-acre average on a given field, one could see a lost yield impact of up to 18 bushels, and at today's prices that is roughly $63 per acre.

The cost to achieve uniform emergence is a complicated one, and it could be as fundamental as planting at the optimal time with moisture, temperature, and seed-to-soil contact. This starts with proper tillage practices and developing an optimal seedbed with accurate seed placement at the bottom of the seed trench at the depth you desire. Many technologies are in the market today that focus on these key areas, from very specific to a complete solution. The individual grower has many options.

What’s the main cause of uneven emergence?
Depth, spacing, and seed-to-soil contact can all three be major causes of uneven emergence. And trying to achieve all three is really the critical balancing act. To answer the question specifically, consistent and proper seed depth is often talked about as the most important factor for even emergence.

If a new planter is not in the budget, how does a farmer improve uniformity of emergence with older equipment?
RH: If uniform emergence has been a challenge for you, one can evaluate a few key areas. Let's start from the front of the planter and work back. First are row cleaners and ensuring the planter is clearing trash and dirt clods as it moves through the field. Next is downforce to ensure seeds are being placed at a consistent seed depth across your field. Checking the seed depth by digging behind the planter is an important check that is too often overlooked. A consistent seed drop from the planter to ensure consistent seed-to-soil contact, and finally proper trench closing.

Each one of these aspects has many options within the marketplace and at varying levels of costs. A grower needs to evaluate his own operation and balance the improvements he is hoping to achieve with the potential paybacks. Another major impact is simply how one operates the equipment. Matching the proper ground speed with the abilities of the planter can have huge impacts. 

Can hydraulic downforce systems provide more even emergence?
RH: Hydraulic downforce systems can be a tool to enable even emergence but are not always needed. For years, planters have been achieving even emergence without them. But with different soil conditions, or even various tillage practices, and now today's varying planter speeds, having the ability to adjust the downpressure can greatly enable achieving even emergence. The critical factor I go back to is ensuring a consistent seed trench, consistent seed placement in the bottom of that trench, and finally, having good seed-to-soil contact. With these various conditions, hydraulic downforce does enable from-the-cab adjustments on a row-by-row basis to offset whatever changing conditions one might encounter. One final thought on hydraulic downforce is to ensure it is not overapplied. Too much downforce can cause unneeded compaction on the future root zone and lead to stunted root development. As with all planters and features, proper settings are critical.

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