Be mindful of sidewall compaction this year

By Joel Penhorwood

With the delayed planting season this year, certain agronomic concerns arise as farmers rush to get in the fields.

Bill McDonald, director of agronomic services for Seed Consultants, said he is seeing some corn fields being planted into wet ground, causing a distinct seed slot to form. That could lead to possible detriment for the corn plant down the road.

“I can stand here and visually look down in the ground and I can see the seed with the mesocotyl coming out of it,” said McDonald, referring to the pictures at right and below. “I have no nodule roots yet and my concern is if we don’t get a rain here relatively quickly, there is going to be nowhere for those nodule roots to go except for up and down the row. We’re dependent on Mother Nature now. We could see a lot of stand loss out here.

“If those sidewalls continue to dry out — we’re talking about temperatures in the 80s for the next few days — and if those sidewalls continue to get dryer and harder, those nodule roots will just continue to have virtually nowhere to go besides up and down that seed slot. If it can’t get out and across that row, it can’t pick up any water, it can’t pick up any nutrients, and it’s just going to die.”

Many farmers refer to their use of spike closing wheels as protection against sidewall compaction, but McDonald said that’s not the case.

“From all appearances here, this was closed at one point in time. But those coulters that opened up that slot were just too much damage done and there was just no closing it once it quit raining and started drying out.”

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