Sunday, June 22, 2014

Better Crops? Not!

This is embarrassing.  I am supposed to know better.  I have a bean field that is a bit of a mess.  And I have to look at it every day because it is beside the warehouse.
The recipe started out alright.  Harvested corn last fall without causing any ruts, although serious compaction was left where the buggy tracked in and out.  Did no fall tillage because soil was too wet.  Two trips with an RTS on May 18th to incorporate and distribute some of the heavy trash.  Rain later that week kept us from planting.  Planted on May 29. Checked seed depth and adjusted to 1-1.5 inches thinking I had adequate moisture at that level.  At 2 inches I figured I had gumbo and did not want to go there. That was mistake #1.  A combination of 200 bu corn residue from last fall and rapidly drying soil conditions caused me to misjudge the moisture line as the day progressed.  Count this as mistake # 2.  The resulting variable emergence is a direct result of these two decisions. All because I did not check seed depth and moisture conditions often enough. Attention to detail is a characteristic that separates smart folks from the not so smart.  On that particular day count me as one of the not so smart.

Misery seems to enjoy company.  My buddy Paul Sullivan from the Ottawa Valley tweeted a picture of soybean emergence amid heavy corn stalks.  It looks a lot like my field.
A survey of other soybean fields in the neighbourhood revealed some similar lack of attention to detail.  The owners' identities are being withheld.

Yep, those are beans on top of the ground.  And some are still germinating after .5 in of rain last Wednesday.
None of these fields are candidates for replanting, but when the goal is to produce high yielding crops, uniform emergence is a very good starting point.
This field is enlightening.  Fall plowing on the left and no- till on the right.  Excellent emergence on the left, less than excellent on the right.  
Planting depth of beans on the left averaged 2".  Those on the right averaged 1" or less.  It is not complicated.  The deeper planted beans in the conventional tillage were put consistently into moisture.  The no-till beans were planted shallower and did not consistently find moisture.
Many farmers have an inherent fear of planting too deep.  Usually based on one or two experiences with deep planted crops that did not emerge.  There is far less fear of planting shallow.  My years of experience have taught me that problems created from planting too shallow out number the problems created from planting too deep by at least 5 to 1.  And I still planted too shallow.  That is the definition of dumb.
The best beans this spring are those planted into conventionally tilled ground.  It seems that at this point there was no such thing as too much tillage.

But the secret is not tillage.  It is placing seed uniformly well into the moisture line.  Even when that line is two inches.
Coming back to my field by the warehouse.  The story is far from over.  The worst spots are close to the road.  The majority of the field is very acceptable.  As Horst Bohner says, the month of August makes beans.  Differences in June do not always mean much in the soil types of Perth county.  That is the unique thing about soybeans.  They do not punish us for our spring mistakes like other crops do.  Part of the reason why bean acres outnumber corn acres.  

No comments:

Post a Comment