This recent weather makes a heated shop sound like a good idea. If you haven't yet, it is certainly time to get started preparing the planter.
Regardless of tillage system, the goal for corn producers is to economically maximize profit through consistent good ear count and size.
Conventional tillage is more forgiving of planter mistakes when compared to the no-till system. Intensifying management will make no-till pay out every time over conventional tillage especially with current elevated input costs.
The following are comments that State Agronomist, Barry Fisher, of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has made. His comments are good reminders prior to each year's planting season. "If you have not tried no-till in the past five to ten years, you have really not tried no-till based on advancements in equipment technologies.
Producers also have to recognize that no-till is a system-that they can't jump in and out of the practice. It takes about five years of continuous no-till to really begin to harvest the soil quality benefits of no-till."
Fisher provides planter set-up and adjustment tips that are applicable to both conventional and no-till. "Many consider row cleaners to be for warming the soil, however the real purpose for row cleaners is to prepare a uniform and consistent soil surface allowing row units to uniformly place seed during the planting operation," said Fisher. "A clean row soil surface free of residue aids in minimizing gauge wheel bounce. Floating row cleaners are best and row cleaners should never be moving soil as the soil they would be moving would be the warmest and driest soil available at the surface in a no-till system. Row cleaners may not pay every year but they certainly are not going to hurt anything when used correctly."
In regard to starter fertilizer, Fisher said, "starter is a must for no-till success." Several have commented that they have tried starter and it did not make a difference. Fisher contends those individuals need to analyze how they applied starter. "First rates should be a minimum of 25 lbs of N and 35-40 would be better. Starter must be delivered deeper than the seed and like the seed be applied uniformly in terms of rate and depth. Two inches beside and two inches below the seed (2x2), is a good standard placement. If using a higher amount of N in starter, move farther away from row (i.e. 3-4 inches) to keep starter out of the row on turns. More no-tillers are adding pop-up fertilizer in the row and this would further justify one to move the rest of the starter farther from the row." In regards to planter maintenance, Fisher said, "change hoses on squeeze pumps annually as hoses lose plasticity from the caustic nature of the fertilizer flowing in the hose."
Fisher said, "Walking gauge wheels are a must for no-till where the tandemness of these gauge wheels function more smoothly rather than the hard bounce against the traditional T bar." The option of walking gauge wheels is roughly $30/row but well worth the money. Fisher said, "Also beveled gauge wheel tires (like Case-IH) are critical in no-till to minimize sidewall compaction by keeping down pressure away from the seed slot." This might seem like a minute detail but it is a common denominator amongst successful no-tillers.
Fisher highly recommended removing the planter box unit and having it tested with a seed metering system using seed of the type and size that is most typically used. Fisher said, "Replace chains often and annually pull chains to check for sticky links while checking idlers to assure that there is no jerking or sloppiness that causes skips or doubles."
Fisher also suggested a key planter adjustment is the tractor throttle as one should never plant faster than five mph. "No-till results in a firmer seed bed increasing the likelihood of planter bounce, at 6 or 7 mph, there is no way the seed metering system can consistently deliver 22-25 seeds per second. If you can't afford to slow down, buy another planter because you are already making payments on it by driving too fast with the current planter. If you don't want to work on your planter in the cold, thus lacking attention to these details, build a heated shop because you are already making payments on the heated shop by ignoring details," said Fisher. Actually summer is the best time to work on planter as parts are more readily available and particularly if you don't have a heated shop.
"No-tiller's need to have their planter adjustable to more intensively manage for varying conditions. The only problem is that something that is adjustable is something that is capable of falling out of adjustment," said Fisher. This is what everyone means when it is stated the key to successful to no-till is more intense management. If you would like to contact Fisher, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-440-7536 ext. 350 if you would like to contact him.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Jan. 29 Low Maintenance Landscaping, Beef House, 6 p.m.
Jan. 28-30 Indiana Hort Congress, Indianapolis
Jan. 30 Crop Management Workshop, Danville, 8:30 a.m.
Feb. 2 Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry, Indianapolis
Feb. 7 Annie's Project (1st of six-week program), Sullivan, 1 p.m.
Feb. 9 Shrimp Conference, Martinsville, 8:30 a.m.
Feb. 9 Bi-state Livestock Conference, North Vermillion High School
Feb. 13-16 National Farm Machinery Show, Louisville, Ky.
Feb. 19 Southwest Indiana Crop Clinic, Jasper, 8 a.m.
Feb. 20-21 Women in Ag Conference, Columbus, Ind.
Feb. 23 The Sensual Garden, Greencastle, 8 a.m.
Feb. 26 Starting Bee Keeping, Session two of four, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
March 13 Ag Day Dinner, Brazil, 6:30 p.m.
April 2 Starting a Community Kitchen, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.