The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recently hosted a Planter Clinic at the E.V. Smith Research Center in the east-central part of the state. Presenters discussed the calibration and setup of planter units, new metering technology, and the impact of planter performance on crop yields. The following is the second in a series of three.

While all crops can benefit from fine-tuning your planter, corn tends to be more yield responsive, says Andy Pace, Southeast regional manager for Precision Planting.

“There’s more of a direct correlation to a lot of the changes and management practices that can be made by farmers. But the basic principles apply to all row crops, whether it is corn, peanuts or cotton,” says Pace.

There are several things that can be done to tune your planter for success, says Pace, the first being perfecting seed spacing.

“To plant with precision, we need to get the spacing correct. There’s also the singulation of your seed meter, and these factors go hand-in-hand.

“Equally important is improving depth uniformity. We know that if we can get uniform depth, we can get uniform emergence. If we get uniform emergence, we give ourselves the best opportunity to have those plants at the same growth stage throughout the year, making everything we do a lot easier,” he says.

It’s also important to create an optimal seed environment, adds Pace. “Down-force management and other factors will help us to manage that seed environment and give the seed its best chance, and the technology is available to help us improve our planter performance.”

Farmers should look at their planters as small-scale factories, he says, with assembly lines within each row unit.

“But what are we doing with our assembly line? We cover it up with a closing system.

The only way I know what’s going on is to spend my entire day digging seed, or I can invest in technology that can help me know if I’m running efficiently,” says Pace.

When considering corn plant population numbers, growers should look at efficiency in planting. Also, they should make sure they’ve got uniform ear size, he says.

In a groundbreaking study conducted about 20 years ago by Purdue University, researchers went into farmers’ fields and tried to gauge how well farmers did on hitting their target population, says Pace.

Only about 60 percent of the fields they examined were within about 4 or 5 inches of that targeted spacing. And, only about 16 percent of the fields were less than 3 inches within the targeted spacing.

“They went back and did yield checks on those fields and discovered a direct correlation between how well you space the plants and your yield potential. For every inch that we’re off our targeted average spacing, it costs us about 2.5 bushels in potential yield of corn.