The role planting depth plays in getting corn off to a good start is a familiar winter and spring topic. It’s something one agronomist will continue to stress this year after seeing plenty of cases last year where corn stands were negatively impacted by seed that was planted too shallow.
“We’re seeing so much more even emergence and higher yield potentials when that corn is planted at least an inch and a half deep,” says Bill McDonald with Seed Consultants. He says he sees a lot of corn planted three-quarters of an inch to an inch deep, too shallow. Why do farmers plant that shallow?
“A lot of times people think if they shallow the corn up, it’s going to come up quicker,” he said. “But in reality when you plant the corn too shallow you get into more violent changes. The moisture will go from nothing to completely saturated, or the temperature will go from 70 down into the lower 50’s and maybe 40’s with just one rainfall event. We get such violent swings at that shallow depth. When we get down into the soil profile at least an inch and a half we don’t get those violent swings so we’re going to get more even emergence of corn plants.”
McDonald would also like to see farmers not just starting the season or a given day at the right depth, but checking settings throughout the planting process.
“Ground conditions will change as the year goes along, so we’ve got to keep monitoring our planting depth,” he told HAT. “We’ve got to get out every few rounds, whether it’s starting in the morning and the depth is fine and by afternoon the ground conditions change, our planting depth is going to change. It changes from field to field.”
Uniform planting depth at the right depth leads to more uniform emergence, and uniform emergence leads to better corn stands and better yields. McDonald has other tips for ensuring uniform emergence.
“The big thing is seed firmers, slowing the planter down, plant in the right conditions. We don’t want to get out there too wet and smear our sidewalls. We want to keep our speed down so that the corn coming down the tubes is going to be placed better into the seed furrow, and if we have a seed firmer that plant is going to be at a uniform depth when we cover it up.”
McDonald is Director of Agronomic Services at Seed Consultants, Inc.