Technology is now available that allows growers to vary seeding rates on-the-go, says Balkcom.

If you have different soil types across the same field, it would be beneficial to reduce the seeding rates on some soil types and increase it on other types as opposed to using just one general seeding rate, he says.

Varieties also make a difference in how you plant, says Balkcom.

“When we think about varieties, we usually think about transgenic seed versus conventional seed, and we also think about varying maturity levels.

“But you’ve also got to be aware of different seed sizes, because it’ll make a difference when you’re calibrating the planter.

“If you’re planting peanuts, and you want to decrease the incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus, you need to be planted at six seed per foot of row. Based on the seed size, that could make a lot of difference in the actual number of seed you’ll be planting.”

As for planter performance, Balkcom says producers want to get good seed-to-soil contact, and there are simple attachments that can help you accomplish this.

“All planters now come with down-pressure springs and they can be adjusted. There are kits that allow you to put down-pressure springs on older planters.

“If you’re operating in rough ground, these are designed to help you maintain a consistent seed depth across the field. But you have to be careful with it. A little down pressure can be good, but more doesn’t always mean better. You could hurt yourself with compaction problems.”

Closing wheels represent the last contact your planter will have with the seed, he says.

“There are different styles, including rubber and spoke closing wheels. The rubber wheels work better in sandy soil types. If you use spoke closing wheels in sandy soils, it won’t seal as well and will dry much faster.

“Spoke wheels are designed more for heavy soil types, such as Decatur soils in the Tennessee Valley. If you use rubber closing wheels on those type soils, it’ll be difficult for the seed to emerge.”

If weather conditions are extremely dry and you’re trying to “dust in” cotton seed, he says, sometimes the closing wheel will kick up the seed because it is being planted so shallow. As a compromise, some growers use one rubber closing wheel and one spoke closing wheel.

“The name of the game with any planter is achieving uniform emergence,” says Balkcom. “When you get a good consistent stand across an entire field, you reduce yield variability.

Also, you want to optimize the plant spacing. Even-spaced plants will be able to take more advantage of sunlight and moisture than unevenly spaced plants.”

Tomorrow: Tuning Your Planter to Maximize Yield & Profit


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