July 15, 2024

Ideal planting conditions top priority

TREMONT, Ill. — Yields begin or end with plant emergence and it’s all based on planting time decisions.

“The first rule when we talk emergence, and this is in your control, is ideal planting conditions are priority No. 1. You control that. If it’s too wet, get a hobby,” said Matt Bennett, a Precision Planting regional sales manager lead, at the company’s winter conference.

“I know what happens, you see everybody start running and you get a little nervous. You get that farmer twitch going a little bit and the next thing you know you’re planting when conditions aren’t right.”

A study by AGCO in 10 locations across seven states found that for every hour a plant’s emergence is delayed after the first 24 hours, it costs 0.9375 bushels.

“If it’s too wet, get a hobby.”

—  Matt Bennett, regional sales manager lead, Precision Planting

Field trials conducted at the Precision Technology Institute in Pontiac from 2020 to 2022 found a 36-hour emergence delay reduced yield by 38%. Losses increased to 83% when emergence was delayed by 48 hours.

“How many of you have planted a field and then moved on to plant the next field, you go back 10 days later or two weeks later and you have great emergence in field A and field B is a train wreck? ‘I think I did the same thing in both fields, what happened?’” Bennett said.

“So, imagine that 80-acre corn field behind your house. You put almost 3 million seeds in that field and you want them all to come up at the same time. A lack of uniformity is the biggest yield-robber for you all.”

Seeds need moisture, soil temperatures above 50 degrees and oxygen to emerge.

“It’s pretty simple, but getting those three things correct is a little bit harder because the moisture line is not the same,” Bennett added.

To achieve timely emergence and set the foundation for to yields, Bennett provided the three Cs to keep in mind when planting: clean, create and control.


Use a row cleaner on the planter that removes as much residue as possible without removing soil and that maintains row unit ride quality.

“Residue is impactful. There’s a 15-degree temperature difference between clean strips and where the residue sits. The next thing is moisture problems. When I’m battling for moisture, when I put a corn seed in the ground and I want it to imbibe 30% of its weight in moisture to start emergence, if the seed is next to a piece of trash, the trash wicks moisture away from the soil,” Bennett said.

“Trash also like a cold blanket laying on the seed. I want those 2.7 million seeds on 80 acres all out of the ground and you just change the equation when residue sits on the row.”

There is also an agronomic cost when residue is not managed with row cleaners.

When soils warm up to 60 degrees, microbial activity starts to decompose old residue and excretes toxins that can cause disease such as seedling blight.

“Nutrient deficiency probably hurts us the most because you paid money for a starter program. You put food out there and the bugs get it. When the soil warms to 60 degrees, microbial immobilize available nitrogen and phosphorus for energy, creating competition with young plants for available nutrients,” Bennett said.


Create a furrow with integrity that will survive long enough for the seed to make it to the bottom of the trench before being easily destroyed.

“The reason that trench has to be at the depth is so I can get the seed to the bottom. When choosing planting depth, you want above 30% furrow moisture. A quarter-inch difference in cold soils will cost you a fortune,” Bennett said.


Properly close the trench ensuring 100% seed-to-soil contact, while managing the soil density above the seed.

“If loose soil is not firmed appropriately moisture because in a loose soil if I don’t pat it my moisture gets away, if I’m too heavy, the seed can’t get out,” Bennett said.

He urged farmers to “gain master of the tools that are available to you.”

“As time marches on, if you are not getting better every year, you are simply falling behind,” he said.


Cory Muhlbauer, Precision Planting lead agronomist, highlighted the company’s products that can address the three Cs.

Precision Planting’s Reveal is a frame-mounted row cleaner to reduce the impact on the row unit. Its internal gauge wheel precisely controls the depth of cleaning tines to create a clear and ideal seeding environment.

DeltaForce is an automated row-by-row, downforce control system that measures and adjusts downforce every time there’s variability in the field.

As for seed depth, the SmartFirmer technology provides a sensor that measures the amount of moisture available to seed while SmartDepth allows farmers to make planting depth adjustments from the cab as field conditions change.

FurrowForce is a two-stage closing system that adapts to planting conditions to remove air pockets and firms soil to maintain moisture.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor