Matt Hutcheson, product manager for Seed Consultants, Inc., talks to customers at a field day.

Get a good start to a great growing season

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, product manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

 Spring is one of the most important parts of the growing season. Actions taken early in the year set the stage for the entire growing season and help to ensure crops maintain their yield potential. Getting crops off to a strong start will give growers the opportunity to have a productive and successful growing season.

With the great deal of field work that needs to be done in the spring in limited time, it is always important to keep field conditions in mind. In many areas, Ohio’s growers are facing lingering compaction from past fieldwork in wet soil. While spring is not the preferred time to attempt to alleviate compaction, growers must avoid performing field work in wet soils and creating additional compaction this year. One area of concern is the desire to plant early in the growing season. While it is widely discussed and understood that early planting is one management practice that leads to increased yields, planting date is just one of many factors that impact yield. Planting early favors high yields but does not guarantee them. To avoid problems such as compaction, poor emergence, poor root development, and replant, growers should only plant early if field and weather conditions are conducive to adequate seed germination and plant growth. Planting should only occur when soil is dry enough to avoid compaction and soil temperatures are warm enough to ensure that the best possible conditions for germination and stand establishment exist. “Mudding-in” seed will almost always result in yield losses greater than any yield gains achieved by early planting. 

 Starting with a clean, weed-free field is crucial to stand establishment and early crop development. Ohio’s growers should employ management practices that effectively control weeds, use multiple modes of herbicide action, and use residual herbicide products as well. Weed control in soybeans will continue to be a challenge between herbicide tolerant weeds and the plethora of soybean herbicide traits available to growers. Producers should focus on choosing high yielding varieties with solid defensive characteristics in combination with a herbicide trait that allows them to achieve effective control of weeds. For effective weed control, university experts recommend starting with a weed free field, use of effective burndowns, as well as residual herbicides. Although there are some herbicides that are very effective at controlling problem weeds, a program approach must be used to allow for continued efficacy and to hinder the development of herbicide resistance in weeds.

Planting is one of the most important management practices performed all year and attention to detail while planting will pay off at harvest. Seed placement impacts many areas including: emergence, root development, standability, stand establishment, plant spacing, plant population, and yield. To ensure high yield potential, the goal of the planting season should be to achieve equidistant plant spacing and uniform crop emergence. Growers should ensure their planters/units are set up correctly and calibrated to plant accurately, allowing for proper seed spacing. Planting depth is a critical aspect of seed placement. It should be checked frequently as field and soil conditions change and adjusted as needed. Growers should be aware of the weight distribution and down pressure applied to each unit, as well as depth settings of gauge wheels. Proper seed-to-soil contact is also impacted by planting practices. Growers should ensure that seed is placed firmly in the bottom of the seed furrow and closing wheels completely cover the seed trench. Proper spacing, planting depth, and seed-to-soil contact will go a long way to ensuring uniform stand establishment and plant populations. When the clock is ticking and weather forecasts do not look favorable, it is tough to stop and assess the job your planter is doing and perform adjustments. However, taking time to pay attention to the little details during planting will make a big difference in crop development and productivity. 

No matter what challenges arise during the 2021 growing season, the successful grower will be the one who observes what is happening in the field, keeps up to date on important agronomic information, and makes timely and sound decisions based on that information.

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