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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Decisions farmers must make

Thursday, February 18, 2010

As many know, farmers don't typically get much time to rest.

Instead, they are always out there working on their equipment, working in the fields, checking and feeding livestock and making management decisions to determine the future of their farm.

Some of those current management decisions are probably related to seed selection and planting preparations.

Our first topic dealing with farm management relates to seed selection. Seeds are graded to determine the quality of the grain based on standards that are set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The factors that contribute to the grade are test weight, percentage of intact kernels, percentage of damaged kernels and percentage of foreign matter.

There are five grades of corn with US No. 1 being the highest grade. US No. 1 corn has a minimum test weight of 56 pounds per bushel and up to 2 percent broken corn and foreign material.

In comparison, No. 2 field corn has the minimum test weight of 54 pounds per bushel and 3 percent broken corn and foreign material.

One special grade of corn that might be of interest to some is waxy corn. To grade as waxy corn, it has to have 95 percent or more waxy corn.

Corn is not the only grain that is graded. Some of the others include barley, canola, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat. Yet the other one that is of great importance in Indiana is soybeans.

There are four grades of soybeans with US No. 1 being the highest grade. US No. 1 soybeans have 2 percent total damaged kernels and 10 percent splits. At the other extreme, US No. 4 soybeans have 8 percent total damage kernels and 40 percent splits.

For more information on the grading of corn, soybeans and other commodities, check out the US Grain Standards found at the USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration website.

As a side note, remember not to just buy the cheapest seeds you can find, instead buy the varieties that best fit your needs based on field history, past problems and yield performance.

It might be hard for some to even start thinking about preparing for planting but now might be the best time to do it since you will be nice and warm inside a heated barn when you're working on the planter. Poor planter performance can become a hidden yield robber.

Therefore, making it very important for you to perform some maintenance on your planter before hitting the fields in coming the spring. Some common yield losses that relate to your planter are poor space variation and depth variation in corn kernel placement and skips. That is because when corn plants are too close together, one or both plants become weeds, absorbing water and nutrients, but not producing at their optimal ability.

In comparison, a skip will not be compensated for in neighboring stalks within the row or in neighboring rows.

You are probably wondering what standard deviation of plant space should be in a corn field. Since 100 percent germination is not going to occur, an acceptable standard deviation would be 2-inches given a 90-95 percent germination rate for seed.

However, one suggestion that you might want to follow up on is to talk to your dealer or rep to have each row unit tested with one of the commercial metering test devices.

The standard deviation of plant space is important, but there are other maintenance tasks that you might want to follow.

Check to see that all row units run true to the direction of travel and that they are not skewed due to bent linkage arms or worn bushings. Adjust no-till coulter depth to run one-quarter inch higher than the seed opening disks. Make sure that seed opening disks are sharp and no smaller than 14.5 inches in diameter. Check your seed disks to make sure that they maintain two to two-and-a-half inches of contact. Replace any seed drop tubes that are worn and look for plastic burs inside any new seed tubes that you purchase.

Inspect all chains for wear and sticky links. Remember to replace worn idlers and to lube all chains. Make sure that the closing wheels are outside the seed slot and consider using the beveled gauge wheels that remove the pressure from the slot side walls in no-till.

Farming is a very time consuming occupation that involves a lot of intricate work. While doing this work, remember to always follow the operator's manual for manufacturer recommendations and to spare a few minutes out of your day to spend with your family.

If you have any questions or concerns about agriculture, horticulture or natural resources, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 or reach me directly via e-mail at smith535@purdue.edu.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

Saturday -- Clay County 4-H Expo, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Clay County Fairgrounds,

* Feb. 27 -- Spring into Spring Seminar, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Putnam County Fairgrounds. Cost $40 at the door,

* March 3 -- Regional Goat Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Greencastle Courthouse Annex,

* March 12 -- Purdue PARP Program, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Equipment Technologies, Inc., Mooresville. Contact 812-829-5020 to register, and

* March 13 -- The Gardeners' Gathering Spring Seminar, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Terre Haute. Cost $30. Call 812-462-3371.