By Matt Reese and Dusty Sonnenberg
The 2022 planting season was across-the-board frustrating for Ohio’s crop growers and generally challenging nationwide. Extended cool weather through March, April and well into May paired with saturated soils and frequent rains made good planting windows very elusive. By late May, Ohio’s corn and soybean growers were able to close the wide planting progress gap compared to the 5-year average with 72% of the state’s corn planted and 56% of the soybeans planted, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio Field Office.
Before most of the state’s corn and soybean ground was fit, Kyle Shepherd had some chances at Baughman Farms in late April to get carrots, red beets and parsley planted for the nearby Campbell’s Soup plant in well-drained Henry County fields.
“We have been raising these vegetables since the mid-70s for Campbell’s Soup. The V8 Plant is just 3 miles down the road,” Shepherd said. “That is where they start making what we call the V7 because they don’t put the tomatoes in yet.”
The planter being used for the task was built on the farm in the late 70s.
“They used to use the old shoe planters. Those don’t push through corn stalks. We were also having problems with wind erosion around here. We had to come up with some other idea to handle things,” Shepherd said. “Tom [Baughman’s] dad came up with the idea of using double-disk openers. They played around with it and this was the first machine they built. It worked well so they made a second machine and a third machine and that is what we have been using ever since.”
The planter may not be modern, but the technology on it is much newer with auto steer and RTK signal.
“We can track varieties, can print our maps out and know exactly what we have planted where,” he said. “The planter is way different than what we use with corn and soybeans but it does work.”
The planter also has very small seed boxes.
“The seed is itty bitty. It doesn’t take much to fill these boxes and we can plant 5 or 10 acres at a clip. It is a slow process but that is the way it works,” Shepherd said. “We run about 4 miles per hour to keep the tires going and to keep the boxes from jiggling around. The seed is falling through little holes. To keep the vibration down and get the stand count where we want it seems to work at that speed.”
With small seed, wind can also create problems.
“The way the tubes are, they are spiral, springy and collapsible, and when 20 or 30 mile per hour winds come through, the seeds are so small that they don’t land,” he said. “We are only planting them three-quarters of an inch in the ground. You want to get them in the ground and if the wind is blowing it does not work well.”
Only a very small percentage of Ohio’s corn and soybeans went in the ground in April. The first real statewide window of planting opportunity was not until almost mid-May. The Rodefer family was out in full force in Preble County on May 13 when the fields finally started to dry.
“It has been tough. We just kept thinking every day we’d be able to plant corn. We just kept waiting and waiting on the ground conditions. In an emergency situation we felt like there were some days we could have planted, but we wanted to do it right and be patient. It is drying out but it has really been a slow process and I think a lot of it is tied to soil temperatures. We are just now finally getting that heat we’ve all be wanting and the soil is finally starting to warm up. It has just taken awhile,” said Andy Rodefer, in the cab of a sprayer on May 13. “We are finally getting in the field and weed pressure is definitely worse than it usually is. We’ve been getting 2 or 4 tenths at a time. It hasn’t been flooded, but we just haven’t been able to move. We put a couple hundred acres of beans in early and a little corn, and I hate to say it, but we need to see a little rain to help with soil crusting. It would slow planting down a little but it would be a blessing on the other end. Today I’m spraying, my brother Tim is planting beans, my wife is working ground ahead of my dad, and my dad is planting corn.”
On twice-worked ground to get fields to dry out, the corn was being planted with a days-old John Deere ExactEmerge high speed planter.
“You can run up to 10 miles per hour. It has a lot of new features with new monitors on it and I’m still trying to figure that out. This is our third day running it,” said Ken Rodefer. “I like the speed. It seems to do a really nice job even though you’re going at a high speed. It is easier to pick up my lines when I come to an end and when I go to a corner than it used to be. I used to have to go through a lot of stuff and now I just can pop them up and click on them and I am right on the lines. Some of it is easier because of the features that are shortcuts. We decided to go with the same size planter, since we already had a 12-row combine head. We figured that if we could plant a little faster this might be the best for us in the long run than going to more rows.”
Up on the Wood/Henry County line, Shane Meyer finally was out planting soybeans in late May with a planter and no shortage of technology.
“We are running starter fertilizer with this field for soybeans. Last year I ran on strip-till and we had a 7-bushel bump when I was running 30-inch on strip-till. This year we’re trying no-till on 30-inch rows with starter to eliminate that pass. We’re hoping it works. We’re running 10 acres in this field with 3 gallons of starter for soybeans in 30-inch rows. Then I’ll run around 5 acres without starter and then we’re going to drill the rest of them and see if we get a yield bump,” Meyer said. “With this planter we have hydraulic downforce. We have electric meters and the Precision Planting eSet meters on it. We’re running Yield 360 BANDITs and we are running Yield 360 WAVEs on it. We have hydraulic row cleaners we can adjust on the fly. We can go from zero PSI when they are lifted to 3,000+ at the turn of the nob and it is almost instant. This particular farm has a 10-acre blowsand hill on it and the rest of it is a heavy Hoytville clay. I can flip that switch on the fly so I am not digging a trench with the row cleaners when I hit the sand hill and then readjust when we get back down to the heavy clay.”
Meyer puts a heavy emphasis on experimenting on the farm and the technology makes comparisons of different treatments easier than ever.
“Currently we are running 140,000 seeds. I have the planter split into 4 rows apiece so I can push a button to swap it to 130,000 where needed. We have a lot of tests going on: pop-up, starter, no pop-up, drilled versus 30-inch, and the drill is on 7.5 inches with a 180,000 population. We’ll see if we can save money on seed and boost yield,” he said. “Everything gets dumped into Ag Leader’s SMS program and we can pull maps with the different regions. It very easily transfers. On this planter with corn, I’ll run two different varieties all the time. Normally it is six and six but since I am testing the WAVE, I was doing 3 of variety A, 6 of variety B and then 3 of variety A with the wave. This year I am doing 3 of variety A without the Wave, 6 of variety B with the wave and 3 of variety A with the Wave. The last 2 years I have seen the benefit of that and I wanted to try it in one more year of testing. With 3 years of showing a benefit, the planter gets it all the way across. And with the Ag Leader SMS, you can select certain passes or certain rows, take that data, pin it and then invert your selection to get the data not selected prior to compare the data. It makes data very seamless.”