It has been a while since Midwest farmers have had a ‘normal’ spring. This year is no exception. Despite the uncertainties this spring – whether that’s managing planting equipment, cool soil temperatures or prioritizing fields – following proven planting fundamentals will set up corn and soybeans for success in 2020.
“We’re looking at a compressed planting season,” said Tony Johanson, Mycogen Seeds commercial agronomist in Nebraska. “We’ve learned to adapt to trying weather conditions over the last couple of years. This spring, don’t jump the gun to start planting but rather wait until conditions are right, regardless of what the calendar says.”
Focus on planting fundamentals
Johanson stresses that while farmers are eager to get those planters rolling early, it’s best to wait until the conditions are right. And when planting begins, don’t bypass crucial fundamentals:
• Double-check your planter to confirm everything is functional.
• Get out of the tractor cab and dig behind the planter to make sure seed depth and seed spacing is correct. Corn seed depth should be 1.5 to 2.25 inches.
• Ensure the seed trench is closed right so soil can absorb moisture for uniform emergence.
Johanson said some Nebraska farmers were still making decisions on which crops to plant in early April. His advice is to make these decisions based on economics rather than moisture considerations as it can be easier to produce 200-bushel dryland corn than 60 bushels of dryland soybeans. If farmers manage inputs and lock up a profitable price, then a shift toward more corn can make sense.
Manage crops beyond planting
After a relatively mild winter, soil temperatures are likely warmer than normal. This can lead to early weed emergence and increased weed populations prior to planting.
“Keep in mind that not all weed species emerge at the same time,” said Kyle Quick, Mycogen Seeds commercial agronomist in Indiana. “The earliest to emerge include kochia, lambsquarters, and common and giant ragweed.”
On the soybean side, farmers have increased access to Enlist E3 soybeans and Enlist herbicide technology in 2020. Used with Enlist herbicides, Enlist E3 soybeans give farmers three modes of action to control problem weeds, including ragweed, waterhemp or Palmer amaranth.
“Farmers interested in using new soybean traits in 2020 should talk with their local retailers to understand what each technology offers,” Quick said. “Understand the label, which herbicides to pair and state restrictions. Then look at the variety agronomics. Come up with a plan that matches your needs with common weeds and diseases on your farm.”