Farmers who use strip-tillage have even more challenges when it comes to planting dates, he says.

“When you’re dealing with residues like with strip-tillage, you may have soils that are a little bit cooler. Some of the benefits of residue include cooler soils and less evaporative loss, and that’s great during the growing season, but it can be a hindrance at the beginning of the year when you’re trying to get a crop planted.”

Modifications can be made such as using row cleaners that will help move that residue away from the seed zone, says Balkcom.

“Row cleaners are one of the more popular planter attachments. There are fixed and floating row cleaners. If you’re working with heavy residue with a lot of cover in the field, fixed row cleaners are better because they’re closer to the disk openers.

“With lighter residue, a floating type might work better. The No. 1 thing to remember with a row cleaner is that you don’t want to move the soil — you want to move only the residue. You can operate some of these cleaners from the tractor and make adjustments on the fly.”

Other planting considerations include row patterns and widths, he says. “For many growers, it’ll be a standard 36-inch row. But there’s also a lot of interest in narrow-row patterns. The pros are that you have faster canopy closure that’ll help with weed suppression, more efficient moisture utilization, and more efficient light interception.

“Disadvantages are increased seed costs and the cost of modifying your equipment.”

A compromise between regular row widths and narrow rows is planting in twin-rows, says Balkcom. Many growers plant twin-row peanuts to minimize pressure from tomato spotted wilt virus.

“We’ve also looked at twin-row corn production. We looked at corn populations averaged over single and twin-rows, in dryland and irrigated environments, with 24,000, 30,000 and 36,000 plants per acre.

“Where our water was limited, we couldn’t support a high number of plants, and yields were decreased. But there was some separation when we looked at irrigated.

 

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“When we compared the single and twins, the twin-rows didn’t do much for us. We saw a bump with limited water, and I think in that case the twin-rows were more efficient. We still didn’t have enough water to support higher populations.

“Where we had unlimited water, we didn’t see a real advantage in the twin rows, and we had a slight yield decrease at the highest plant population.

“This research is continuing, but at this point it doesn’t justify someone going out and buying a twin-row planter. If you’re already planting twin-rows, I don’t think it’s going to hurt you.”