The Agronomists, Ep 25: Mike Hilhorst and Peter Johnson on planting depth

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Whether you are in a dry or wet part of the country, we are all asking the same thing: how deep do I seed my crop? Do I chase the moisture? How deep is too deep? If I seed in the dust, will the bins really bust?

All of these questions, and more, are answered on this week’s episode of The Agronomists. Host Lyndsey Smith is joined by Mike Hilhorst of Federated Co-operatives Ltd., and Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson, RealAgriculture’s resident agronomist, to talk about how to do the best job possible when it comes to seeding and planting.

Catch a new episode of The Agronomists every Monday night at 8 pm E!

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  • Cereals seeding. So, it really depends where you are. Get into moisture. That is key!
  • How deep can you go before you say it’s too deep?
  • Target for an inch, typically.
  • For spring cereals in the west, an inch and a half to two inches is about average. However, three inches deep has been done before. That’s when things get scary
  • Seeding date is one thing, but the emergence date is even more important.
  • The southern parts of the prairies are DRY.
  • Parts of Ontario is waiting for the rain to leave!
  • Don’t go over an inch deep for canola if you can help it.
  • Stay off the “happy handle” in the tractor! (the throttle)

CLIP 1: Canola School: Seeding Speed & Seed Depth — What’s the Impact?

  • There is a difference between units
  • Trash management is a big one when it comes to seeding canola.
  • Openers can wear out. Check them.
  • Soil texture should be something you look at when considering the ideal speed.
  • Check your speed! It plays a part
  • Depth may be right, but if you have your speed wrong, it causes issues
  • Hoe drills are better at depth control than they were 1o years ago
  • Canola really needs the right nutrients to succeed. Don’t forget about the others — it’s not just nitrogen!

CLIP 2: Soybean School: How deep should you plant?

  • Ultra-early soybeans are all the talk now. There’s a lot of this going on in the U.S. in particular
  • Getting big yield bumps by seeding earlier. However, you can’t seed shallow then.
  • Peas and faba beans can be deeper, they are pretty frost tolerant. Can be done at two inches, but once again, if there’s moisture at an inch or an inch and a half, use it!
  • We’re always fighting end of season maturity, it can mean the difference to getting good grade or combining to Christmas music
  • Seed quality is important! Really, really important.
  • 60 to 70 per cent germination is not acceptable! We can’t skimp out on seed. We need to start out with good soldiers.
  • You’d think you want big seed when it comes to soybeans; however, the bigger the seed, the more likely the seed coat has been damaged. Bigger is not better!
  • Even emergence is important with corn.
  • Silage corn is very similar to grain corn when it comes to seeding recommendations.
  • Corn is an expensive crop to put in — let’s do it right.
  • Corn is a real wimpy creature. We’ve got to set it up for success.
  • Logistics trumps agronomy on most farms; however, we still need to take the time to think about it.

CLIP 3: Wheat School: The Impact of Seeding Depth & Nitrogen Application

  • Vary those seeding rates. We certainly have the equipment opportunity.
  • Pay attention to the areas where crops typically don’t grow so well, maybe you don’t need as much fertilizer there.
  • Rate of mineralization, and trying to adjust our management for it is something we are all learning.
  • Some planters can go 12 mph and still do a great job — it’s astounding where technology has come.
  • If you have zero moisture, draw the line at 3 inches. It’s just too deep after that. Err on the side of shallow.
  • Any deeper and they are behind all year. Not nearly as vigorous.

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