I can’t wait to see corn growing in our fields. It’s my favorite thing to look at in the spring. Actually it’s the first real report card for farmers. What’s the planting population and how much of what you put in the ground is up and growing? Determining exactly how many seeds to put in the ground really comes down to an educated guess.
We’ll try some planting population studies across our farm each year to gauge what works best on certain soil types. However, a year that has plentiful moisture will have completely different results compared to a drought year because none of our corn is irrigated.
We’re planning on varying the population as we go across the Blank Slate field this year. My eroded hilltops can not support as many plants per acre as my topsoil filled valleys. The plan going into the spring is to plant 25 to 26,000 seeds on the hills and 30 to 32,000 plants in the valley. All of this will go in 30 inch rows.
On the south side of this field we’ll run a twin row corn trial. Since we don’t own a twin row planter, we’ll take our 24 row Case planter set up to plant a row every 30 inches and simply plant twice. The first pass will be just like normal, but then we’ll turn around, move over about 7 inches, and plant another row right along side. We’ll end up with 2 rows 7 inches apart and then a 23 inch gap. Twin Row corn is getting more popular. In fact, we’ve done trials each of the last 2 years on our farm and have shown a yield advantage. The challenge to twin row is that you have to buy a different planter if you wanted to do any amount of acres. However, your tractors and other equipment could still be used. That’s the big benefit of twin rows versus switching to 20 inch rows. I know that’s elementary to full-time farmers, but there are many non-farmers following my blog so I’ll try to explain things for them as well.
In the twin row trial, we’ll do some at 40,000 plants per acre and some at 44,000. We had good luck with the higher populations last year at a location about 3 miles away, so we’ll see how it does on the Blank Slate. The other thing I’ll be watching is how good a job we can do moving residue out of the way in front of the planter. One of the biggest frustrations twin row farmers have had is trying to get last year’s crop residue moved sufficiently away so the gauge wheels don’t constantly have to bounce over cornstalks. Every time your gauge wheels bounce over something the result is inconsistent planting depth. I’ll explain that with pictures if the opportunity arises this spring.
One last comment today is about some of the animals working against my efforts on the Blank Slate. Terraces were installed in the field some years back to try to slow down the erosion problems by controlling the water flow. Terraces are nice for that, but they also provide a home for animals like badgers and coyotes. I wanted to include this picture from last summer mainly for my uncle Lynn and his son Kyle who want to help me take care of some coyotes. The coyotes have been digging into my terraces and even caused one terrace to break last year when we got some big rains. Good luck guys!
If you have questions or comments on my blog or other agriculture related topics, please let me know. I’m happy to answer as many questions as I can as time allows.