As the New Year approaches we reflect on the past and plan for the future for many aspects of our life. Many of us will set personal resolutions such as losing that last 10 pounds (or first) but how many of us set resolutions for improved crop production? In agriculture we have finely tuned our yields over the past number of years; better genetics, improved pest control and improved crop management have been contributing factors in our yield increase. Now, Mother Nature still plays a very large factor in yield determination but if we look at the highs and lows over the past few years we can appreciate the overall increase in yield that can be contributed to other factors other than the weather. We are producing higher yielding, higher quality crops than ever before. Plus, we can’t stop we need to produce more if we as farmers are to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050.
What resolutions should I plan for my 2013 crops? Bigger roots – Why roots and not genetics or using a specific fungicide or inoculant (don’t worry I am still going to talk about inoculants). When is the last time you actually thought about your crops roots? Yet it is one of the most important part of the plant and a big contributor to yield. What should I think about? Here is my short list of things to ponder when thinking about roots:
Inoculation (you were forewarned)
Equipment – planting, tillage, application, etc.
Soil structure and soil capacities for yield and root growth
You have more that you may have thought of. If so, please add them to the comment section for others to read.
What we need to do now is go through the list and ask ourselves, field by field and operation by operation – What am I doing to increase my root growth and root volume? How am I planning to reduce soil compaction in this field this year? Am I applying the right amount of inoculant? Am I applying a biological with my inoculant that is promoting root growth? What about my fertility program, my seed treatment plan and my crop rotation?
By asking all these questions and more you start to plan to grow the biggest roots possible and attaining the highest yields. Taking time to make your New Year’s resolution of growing bigger roots will pay dividends in 2013.
Planting is the one thing you as a grower control and getting it right is critical to high yields in soybeans. So how can I get more yield as a grower while planting soybeans? It’s too late to talk about early planting advantages, soil temperatures, seed treatments and row widths as those decisions are done. What can I manage now as I have my seed (treated and inoculated of course!) in the drill or planter and have already started planting?
Stop and get off the tractor seat and check the following things:
Soil moisture – Ask yourself if you are causing sidewall compaction or setting yourself up for crusting issues or are you increasing soil compaction? If the answer is yes or maybe to any of these questions delay planting or adapt your management to alleviate the problems. When planting into dry soils it is very important to conserve the moisture by using the packer/roller during tillage and right after planting.
Planting depth – I know you checked it when you first went into the field but check it again watching out for compacted areas such as headlands and heavy clay knolls. It is good practice to plant for a couple of hours then get out of the tractor to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and check the planting depth and do a quick circle check of the tractor and planting unit. Are you into moisture? The goal is place the seed approx. ½ inch into moisture. Are you planting too shallow (less than ¾ of an inch) or too deep (more than 2 ½ inches deep)? Check different areas of the field and different soil types.
Now that you are back in the tractor seat check the forecast (using the phone or radio). Since you know the soil moisture conditions manage the moisture (should I get the roller to this field by the end of the day or thunderstorm in the forecast tomorrow – let’s wait and see).
Look at your speed. How fast are you driving? Slow down – I know the new planters are can do amazing things, the drill can crank out seeds like crazy and the air seeder, well watch it go but at your current speed are you doing a good job of planting or just a fast job. Most of us plant soybeans way too fast. Increased speed can affect planting depth (due to planter bounce or planeing) increased seed coat damage and loss of population accuracy to name a few. This is not a race – adjust your speed.
It’s game time. Do your best and let Mother Nature take over and give you the best crop ever. Have a safe planting season.