Sunday, May 1, 2011

Planting 2011

I finally started planting corn on Thursday, April 28. It took all afternoon to get the planter and tractor all hooked up and all the wires and hoses in the right places. One hang up was the tractor guidance system was not talking to the planter module. Technology is great when it works, a pain when it doesn't.

My Trimble guidance system is quite busy during planting. It steers the tractor, runs and controls a fertilizer injection pump, runs and controls the seed drive, turns row clutches on and off and logs everything on a data card. The seed population is adjusted automatically to match a prescription that I made. I plant more seeds per acre on the high yielding ground and fewer seeds on the lower yielding ground. Also some hybrids like high populations and some hybrids like lower populations.

The row clutches are new this year. They help cut seed costs and raise yields by not double planting on the ends or edges of fields. I plant one pass or two on the bottom of most fields first. When I plant the field, the guidance system knows when I cross into what was already planted and shuts the rows off. When all are off I can lift out of the ground and turn around. On square fields this is not a big deal. I could come pretty close by hand. The real benefit comes on the many odd shaped fields that I farm. Sometimes one side of the planter is off for several yards before the other side is done planting.

Planting into soybean stubble.
These are some of the pictures I've taken this year planting corn. The first two are ridge-planting into a field that was soybeans last year. These fields are very mellow and we plant directly on the ridge from last year with no other tillage. 

Planting into soybean stubble.

After Row Stalking, before planting.
Planting on the old corn ridge.

  The next two are ridge-planting into a field that was corn last year and will be again this year. I am on a corn-corn-soybean rotation on most of our fields. Before the planter we ran a machine called a Row Stalker. I can't find any photos in our files (I know they are there somewhere), but I will post them as soon as I can get some new shots. The Row Stalker has two discs that run against each other and they cut off the top 2 inches of the ridge left from last year. This cuts off the root balls from last year's corn. Those roots are very tough and I need to get them out of the way for this years corn crop. I then plant on the ridge.
Planting into alfalfa sod.

The picture on the right is no-till planting into an alfalfa field that has been sprayed with a herbicide to kill the alfalfa. We used to use several tillage passes to break up the field, which took a lot of diesel fuel and dried out the soil. This method works much better.

I should be half done planting corn by Monday evening. Most of our fields are now dry enough to plant, although we did find a few wet spots Saturday.

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