Corn School: Evolving planting systems demand down force and savvy row cleaners

Planting depth, down force, row cleaners and closing wheels — they’re all key considerations when setting up your planter, says corn agronomy guru Ken Ferrie.

At the CropSmart 2019 conference held at Kitchener, Ont., last week, Ferrie, the driving force behind Crop-Tech, one of North America’s leading independent agronomy firms, spent almost seven hours sharing corn management insights, tips and tricks with more than 300 Ontario growers and agronomists. In the first of a series of RealAgriculture Corn School episodes featuring Ferrie, the Illinois-based agronomist discusses his approach to corn planting depth. How deep you plant the seed depends on many factors ranging from soil type and texture to whether you are planting early or late, but you “gotta make sure we’re into moisture,” he says.

If that means planting at three inches, so be it. But even when moisture is sitting at three inches, you really don’t need to go that deep, says Ferrie who explains how row cleaners can remove one inch of dry soil and allow growers to effectively plant at a two-inch depth. (Story continues after the video.)

Ferrie says planting systems have changed significantly in the past five to 10 years, with the most dramatic change likely being the emergence of down force as a critical factor in seeding success. Row cleaners have also undergone a revolution. Their role has morphed from primarily moving residue away from the seed trench to include targetted  tillage that limits soil disturbance. “Row cleaner technology is actually making the coulter obsolete,” says Ferrie. “It’s a better way to get some tillage in front of that disc opener.”

Ferrie notes that faster planters demand better seedbed prep. He also shares his thoughts on closing systems. His favourite is a double cast closing wheel in a staggered position dragging a chain. It’s his first choice, especially when he’s planting across a range of environments, including strip-till and no-till.

Click here for for Corn School episodes.

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